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Fifteen Volumes In an Oak Bookcasi 

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;heridan's plays. \ 

^LAYS FROM MOLIERE. By English Dramatists. 

THE PRINCE. By Machiavelli. 




VOMER'S ILIAD, Translated by George Chapman. 



id 26. DON QUIXOTE (Two Volumes). 

DANTE'S DIVINE COMEDY. Ilongfellow's Trans- 




Written by Himself. 



36. STORIES OF IRELAND. By Maria Edgeworth. 


38. SPEECHES AND LETTERS. By Edmund Burke. 



Thomas Crofton Croker. 

41. THE PLAYS of ^SCHYLUS, Translated by R.Potter. 

42. GOETHE'S FAUST, the Second Part. 

44. SOPPIOCLES, Translated by Francklin. 




47. THE BARONS' WARS, &c. By Michael Drayton. 


49. THE BANQUET OF DANTE. Translated by Eliza- 

beth Price Sayer. 





55. ESSAYS. By Winthrop Mackworth Praed. 

56. TRADITIONAL TALES. Allan Cunningham. 


Books I. to IV. 







GRUEL. Books III., IV., and V. 

vJi^tUHvT V^; 







Broadway, Ludgate Hill 






:hiavelli 30 

LLAM'S CONSTI'.:U'_-IONAL HiSTOP.i' ....... 55 

jTHEY's Colloquies on Society , 105 

. Robert Montgomery's Poems 131 

'iL Disabilities of the Jews 143 

lORE's Life of Lord Byron 151 

MUEL Johnson 170 

HN Bunyan 196 

HN Hampden 204 

rRGHLEY AND HIS TiMES . . . . c 235 

AR of the Succession in Spain 251 




drd Bacon 36S 

R William Temple 439 

ladstone on Church and State 49a . 

ORD Cli 'E .^ . . • ,• 524 

ON RANKE . 571 

high Hunt ..... 593 

ORD Holland 621 ! 

Barren Hastings 627 

rederic the Great 692 

Iadame D'Arblay 736 

HE Life and Writings of Addison ...:.. . 769 

he Earl of Chatham 814 

.ays of Ancient Rome . ■ i • • k • i * • ^^i 






Toannis MiltonJ, Angli, de Doctrina Christiana libri duo posthumi. A Treatise on Chi Is 
tian Doctrine^ compiled from the Holy Scriptures alone. By John Milton. Translated 
from the origmal by Charles R. Sumner, M. A., &c., &c. 1825. 

Towards the close of the year 1823 Mr. Lemon, Deputy Keeper of the 
State Papers, in the course of his researches among the presses of his office, 
met with a large Latin manuscript. With it were found corrected copies of 
the foreign degpatches written by Milton, while he fdled the ofiice of Secre- 
tary, and several papers relating to the Popish Trials and the Rye House 
Plot. The whole was wrapped up in an envelope, superscribed '* To Mr. 
Skinner^ Merchant.'^ On examination, the large manuscript proved to be tlie 
long lost Essay on the Doctrines of Christianity, which, according to Wood 
and Toland, Milton finished after the Restoration, and deposited with Cyriac 
Skinner. Skinner, it is well known, held the same political opinions with 
his illustrious friend. It is, therefore, probable, as Mr. Lemon conjectures, 
that he may have fallen under the suspicions of the Government during that 
persecution of the Whigs which followed the dissolution of the Oxford Par- 
liament, and that, in consequence of a general seizure of his papers, this 
work may have been brought to the office in which it has been found. But 
whatever the adventures of the manuscript may have been, no doubt can exist 
that it is a genuine relic of the great poet. 

Mr. Sumner, who was commanded by his Majesty to edit and translate 
the treatise, has acquitted himself of his task in a manner honourable tO: his 
talents and to his character. His version is not, indeed, very easy or elegant ; 
but it is entitled to the praise of clearness and fidelity. His notes abound 
with interesting quotations, and have the rare merit of really elucidating the 
text. The preface is evidently the work of a sensible and candid man, firm. 
in his own religious opinions, and tolerant towards those of others. 

The book itself will not add much to the fame of Milton. It is, like all 
his Latin works, well written — though not exactly in the style of the Prize 
Essays of Oxford and Cambridge. There is no elaborate imitation of clas- 
sical antiquity, no scrupulous purity, none of the ceremonial cleanness v/hich 
characterizes the diction of our academical Pharisees. He does not attempJ 
to polish and brighten his composition into the Ciceronian gloss and brilliancy. 
He does not, in short, sacrifice sense and spirit to pedantic refinements. The 
nature of his subject compelled him to use many words 

"That would have made Quintilian stare and gasp." 
But he writes with as much ease and freedom as if Latin were his mothet 
tongue ; and where he is least happy, his failure seems to arise from the care- 
lessness of a native, not from the ignorance of a foreigner. What Denhara 
with great felicity says of Cowley may be applied to him. He wears the 
garb, but not the clothes of the ancients. 

Throughout the volume are discernible the traces of a powerful and inde- 
pendent mind, emancipated from the influence of authority, and devoted to 
ihe search of truth. He professes to form his system from the Bible alone | 



and his digest of Scriptural texts is certainly among the best that have ap- 
peared. But he is not always so happy in his inferences as in his citations. 

wSonie of the heterodox opinions which he avows seem to have excited con- 
siderable amazement ; particularly his Arianism, and his notions on the sub- 
ject of polygamy. Yet we can scarcely conceive that any person could have 
read the Paradise Lost without suspecting him of the former ; nor do we 
unink that any reader, acquainted with the history of his life, ought to be 
much startled at the latter. The opinions w*hich he has expressed respecting 
the nature of the Deity, the eternity of matter, and the observation of th2 
Sabbath might, we think, have caused more just surprise. 

But we will not go into the discussion of these points. The book, were it 
far more orthodox, or far more heretical than it is, would not much edify 
or corrupt the present generation. The men of our time are not to be con- 
verted or perverted by quartos. A few more days, and this essay will follow 
the Defensio Populi to the dust and silence of the upper shelf. The name of 
its author, and the remarkable circumstances attending its publication, will 
secure to it a certain degree of attention. For a month or two it will occupy 
a few minutes of chat in every drawing-room, and a few columns in every 
magazine ; and it will then, to borrow the elegant language of the play-bills, 
be withdrawn, to make room for the forthcoming novelties. 

We wish, however, to avail ourselves of the interest, transient as it may be, 
which this v/ork has excited. The dexterous Capuchins never choose to 
preach on the life and miracles of a saint, till they have awakened the devo- 
tional feelings of their auditors by exhibiting some relic of him — a thread of 
his garment, a lock'of his hair, or a drop of his blood. On the same prin- 
ijiple we intend to take advantage of the late interesting discovery, and while 
|his memorial of a great and good man is still in the hands of all, to say some* 
thing of his moral and intellectual qualities. Nor, we are convinced, will the 
severest of our readers blame us if, on an occasion like the present, we turn 
for a short time from the topics of the day, to commemorate, in all love ai\d 
reverence, the genius and virtues of John Milton, the poet, the statesman, the 
philosopher, the glory of English literature, the champion and the martyr of 
English liberty. 

It is by his poetry that Milton is best known ; and it is of his poetry that 
we wish first to speak. By the general suffrage of the civilized world his 
place has been assigned among the greatest masters of the art. His de- 
tractors, however, though out-voted, have not been silenced. There are 
many critics, and some of great name, who contrive in the same breath to 
extol the poems and to decry the poet. The works, they acknowledge, con- 
sidered in themselves, may be classed among the noblest productions of the 
human mind. But they will not allow the author to rank with those great 
men who, bom in the infancy of civilization, supplied, by their own powers, 
the want of instruction, and, though destitute of models them.selves, be- 
queathed to posterity models which defy imitation. Milton, it is said, in- 
herited what his predecessors created ; h« lived in an enlightened age ; he 
received a finished education ; and we must, therefore, if we would form a just 
estimate of his powers, make large deductions for these advantages. 

We venture to say, on the contrary, paradoxical as the remark may appear, 
that no poet has ever had to struggle with mors unfavourable circumstances 
than IVfilton. He doubted, as he has himself owned, whether he had not 
been born ** an age too late." For this notion Johnson has thought fit to make 
him the butt of his clumsy ridicule. The poet, we believe, understood tlie nature 
of his art better than the critic. He knew that his poetical genius derived no 
advantage from the civilization which surrounded him, or from the learning 


which he had acquired ; and he looked back with something like regret to the 
ruder age of simple words and vivid impressions. 

We think that, as civilization advances, poetry almost necessarily declines. 
Therefore, though we admire those great works of imagination which have 
appeared in dark ages, we do not admire them the more because they have 
appeared in dark ages. On the contrary, we hold that the most wonderful 
and splendid proof of genius is a great poem produced in a civilized age. We 
cannot understand why those who believe in that most orthodox article of 
literary faith, that the earliest poets are generally the best, should wonder ati 
the rale as if it were the exception. Surely the uniformity of the phenomenon' 
indicates a corresponding uniformity in the cause. 

The fact is that common observers reason from the progress of the experi- 
mental sciences to that of the imitative arts. The improvement of the former 
IS gradual and slow. Ages are spent in collecting materials, ages more in 
separating and combining them. Even when a system has been formed, there 
is still something to add, to alter, or to reject. Every generation enjoys the 
use of a vast hoard bequeathed to it by antiquity, and transmits it, augmented 
by fresh acquisitions, to future ages. In these pursuits, therefore, the first 
speculators lie under great disadvantages, and, even when they fail, are 
entitled to praise. Their pupils, with far inferior intellectual powers, speedily 
surpass them in actual attainments. Every girl who has read Mrs. Marcet's 
little Dialogues on Political Economy could teach Montague or Walpole 
many lessons in finance. Any intelligent man may now, by resolutely apjily- 
ing himself for a few years to mathematics, learn more than the great Newton 
knew after half a century of study and meditation. 

But it is not thus with music, with painting, or with sculpture. Still less is 
it thus with poetry. The progress of refinement rarely supplies these arts with 
better objects of imitation. It may, indeed, improve the instruments which are 
necessary to the mechanical operations of the musician, the sculptor, and the 
painter. But language, the machine of the poet, is best fitted for his purpose 
in its rudest state. Nations, like individuals, first perceive and then abstract. 
They advance from particular images to general terms. Hence the vocabulary 
of an enlightened society is philosophical, that of a half- civilized people is 

This change in the language of men is partly the cause and partly the effect 
of a corresponding change in the nature of their intellectual operations, a 
change by which science gains and poetry loses. Generalisation is necessary 
to the advancement of knowledge, but particularly in the creations of the 
imaginaiion. In pi'oportion as men know more and think more, they look 
less at individuals and more at classes. They therefore make better theories 
and worse -poems. They give us vague phrases instead of images, and per- 
sonified qualities instead of men. They may be better able to analyse human 
nature than their predecessors. But analysis is not the business of the poet. 
His office is to pourtray, not to dissect. He may believe in a moral sense, 
like Shaftesbury. He may refer all human actions to self-interest, like 
Helvetius, or he may never think about the matter at all. His creed on such 
subjects will no more influence his poetry, properly so called, than the notions 
which a painter may have conceived respecting the lachrymal glands, or the 
circulation of the, blood, will affect the tears of his Niobe, or the blushes of his 
Aurora. If Shakespeare had written a book on the motives of human actions, 
it is by no means certain that it would have been a good one. It is extremely 
improbable that it would have contained half so much able reasoning on the 
suj-^iect as is to be found in the Fable of the Bees. But could Mandevillc 
have created an lago ? Well as he knew how to resolve characters into theii 


elements, would he have been able to combine those elements in such a manner 
as to make up a man, — a real, living, individual man? 

Perhaps no person can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a cer« 
tain unsoundness of mind, if anything which gives so much pleasure ought to 
be called unsoundness. By poetry we mean not, of course, all writing in 
verse, nor even all good writing in verse. Our definition excludes many 
metrical compositions which, on other grounds, deserve the highest praise. 
By poetry, we mean the art of einploying words in such a manner as to pro- 
duce an illusion on the imagination, the art of doing by means of words what 
the painter does by means of colours. Thus the greatest of poets has described 
it, in lines universally admired for the vigour and felicity of their diction, and 
still more valuable on account of the just notion which they convey of the art 
in which he excelled : — 

** As imagination bodies forth 
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen 
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing 
A local habitation and a name." 

These are the fruits of the "fine frenzy" which he ascribes to the poet, — a 
fine frenzy, doubtless, but still a frenzy. Truth, indeed, is essential to poetry ; 
but it is the truth of madness. The reasonings are just; but the premises are 
false. After the first suppositions have been made, everything ought to be 
consistent ; but those first suppositions require a degree of credulity which 
-dhnost amounts to a partial and temporary derangement of the intellect. 
Plence, of all people, children are the most imaginative. They abandon them- 
selves without reserve to every illusion. Every image which is strongly pre- 
sented to their mental eye produces on them the effect of reaUty. No man, 
whatever his sensibility may be, is ever affected by Hamlet or Lear as a 
little, girl is affected by the story of poor Red Riding-Hood. She knows that 
it is all false, that wolves cannot speak, that there are no wolves in England. 
Yet, in spite of her knowledge, she believes ; she weeps, she trembles ; she 
dares not go into a dark room lest she should feel the teeth of the monster 
at her throat. Such is the despotism of the imagination over uncultivated 
minds. : ,:, 

In a rude state of society men are children with a greater variety of ideas. 
It is, therefore, in such a state of society that we may expect to find the poetical 
temperament in its highest perfection. In an enlightened age there will be 
,u>uch intelligence, much science, much philosophy, abundance of just classifi- 
;^tation and subtle analysis, abundance of wit and eloquence, abundance of 
.; verses, and even of good ones, — but little poetry. Men will judge and com- 
pare ; but they will not create. They will talk about the old poets, and com- 
naent on tiism, and to a certain degree enjoy them. But they will scarcely be 
able to conceive the effect which poetry produced on their ruder ancestors, 
the agony, the ecstasy, the plenitude of belief. The Greek Rhapsodists, 
according to Plato, could not recite Homer without almost falling into con- 
jvulsions.* The Mohawk hardly feels the scalping knife while he shouts his 
i;4eath-song. The power which the ancient bards of Wales and Germany 
J exercised over their auditors seems to modem readers almost miraculous. 
5 Such feelings are very rare in a civilized community, and most rare among 
?Jhose who participate most in its improvements. They linger longest among 
;tli€ peasantry. 

v.':.. Poetry produces an illusion on the eye of the mind, as a magic lantern pro- 
34u6^s an illusion on the ^e of the body. And, as the magic lantern acts beet 

^ 5se the DialoPTie betveec Socrates and lo. 


In a dark room, poetry effects its purpose most completely in a dark age. As 
the light of knowle(%e breaks in upon its exhibitions, as the outlines of cer- 
tainty become more and more definite, and the shades of probability more 
and more distinct, the hues and lineaments of the phantoms which it calls up 
grow fainter and fainter. We cannot unite the incompatible advantages of 
reality and deception, the clear discernment of truth and the exquisite enjoy- 
ment of fiction. 

He who, in an enlightened and literary society, aspires to be a great poet, 
must first become a little child. He must take to pieces the whole web of 
his mind. He must unlearn much of that knowledge which has perhaps 
constituted hitherto his chief title to superiority. His very talents will be a 
hinderance to him. His difficulties will be proportioned to his proficiency in 
the pursuits which are fashionable among his. contemporaries ; and that pro- 
ficiency will in general be proportioned to the vigour and activity of his 
mind. And it is well if, after all his sacrifices and exertions, his works do 
not resemble a lisping man, or a modern ruin. We have seen in our own 
time great .talents, intense labour, and long meditation employed in this 
stniggle against the spirit of the age, and employed, we will not say abso- 
lutely in vain, but with dubious success and feeble applause. 

If these reasonings be just, no poet has ever triumphed over greater diffi- 
culties than Milton. He received a learned education. He was a profound 
and elegant classical scholar : he had studied all the mysteries of Rabbinical 
literature : he was intimately acquainted with every language of modern 
Europe from which either pleasure or information was then to be derived. 
He was, perhaps, the only great poet of later times who has been distinguished 
by the excellence of his Latin verse. The genius of Petrarch was scarcely of 
the first order : and his poems in the ancient language, though much praised by 
those who have never read them, are wretched compositions. Cowley, with 
all his admirable wit and ingenuity, had little imagination : nor, indeed, do 
we think his classical diction comparable to that of Milton. The authority 
of Johnson is agamst us on this point. But Johnson had studied the bad 
writers of the middle ages till he had become utterly insensible to the Augustan 
elegance, and was as ill qualified to judge between two Latin styles as a 
habitual drunkard to set up for a wine-taster. 

Versification in a dead language is an exotic, a far-fetched, costly, sickly 
imitation of that which elsewhere may be found in healthful and spontaneous 
perfection. The soils on which this rarity flourishes are in general as ill 
suited to the production of vigorous native poetry as the flower-pots of a 
hothouse to the growth of oaks. That the author of the Paradise Lost 
should have written the Epistle to Manso was truly wonderful. Never before 
were such marked originality and such exquisite mimicry found together. 
Indeed, in all the Latin poems of Milton the artificial manner indispensable 
to such works is admirably preserved, while, at the same time, the richness 
of his fancy and the elevation of his sentiments give to them a peculiar 
charm, an air of nobleness and freedom, which distinguishes them from all 
other writings of the same class. They remind us of the amusements of 
those angelic warriors who composed the cohort of Gabriel :— 

*• About him exercised heroic games 
The unarmed youth of heaven. But o'er their heads 
Celestial armoury, shield, helm, and spear. 
Hung bright, with diamond flaming and with gold." 


We cannot look upon the sportive exercises for which the genius of Milton 
ungirds itself, without catching a glimpse of the gorgeous and terrible panoply 


which it is accustomed to wear. The strength of his imagination triumphed 
over every obstacle. .So intense and ardent was the fire of his mind that it 
not only was not suffocated beneath the weight of its fuel, but penetrated the 
whole superincumbent mass with its own heat and radiance. 

It is not our intention to attempt anything like a complete examination of 
the poetry of Milton. The public has long been agreed as to the merit of the 
most remarkable passages, the incomparable harmony of the numbers, and 
the excellence of that style which no rival has been able to equal, and no 
parodist to degrade, which displays in their highest perfection the idiomatic 
powers of the English tongue, and to which every ancient and every modem 
language has contributed something of grace, of energy, or of music. In the 
vast field of criticism on which we are entering, innumerable reapers have 
already put their sickles. Yet the harvest is so abundant that the negligent 
search of a straggling gleaner may be rewarded with a sheaf. 

The most striking characteristic of the poetry of Milton is the extreme 
remoteness of the associations by means of which it acts on the reader. Its 
effect is produced, not so much by what it expresses, as by what it suggests, 
not so much by the ideas which it directly conveys, as by other ideas which 
are connected with them. He electrifies the mind through conductors. The 
most unimaginative man must understand the Iliad. Homer gives him no 
choice, and requires from him no exertion ; but takes the whole upon himself, 
and sets his images in so clear a light that it is impossible to be blind to them. 
The works of Milton cannot be comprehended or enjoyed unless the mind of 
the reader co-operate with that of the writer. He does not paint a finished 
picture or play for a mere passive listener. ♦ He sketches, and leaves others to 
fill up the outline. He strikes the key-note, and expects his hearer to make 
out the melody. 

We often hear of the magical influence of poetry. The expression in general 
means nothing, but, applied to the writings of Milton, it is most appropriate. 
His poetry acts like an incantation. Its merit lies less in its obvious meaning 
than in its occult power. There would seem, at first sight, to be no more in 
his words than in other words. But they are words of enchantment. No 
sooner are they pronounced than the past is present and the distant near. 
New fonns of beauty start at once into existence, and all the burial places of 
the memory give up their dead. Change the structure of the sentence ; sub- 
stitute one synonym for another, and the whole effect is destroyed. The 
spell loses its power ; and he who should then hope to conjure with it would 
find himself as much mistaken as Cassim in the Arabian tale, when he stood 
crying *' Open Wheat," "Open Barley," to the door which obeyed no sound 
but '* Open Sesame ! " The miserable failure of Dryden in his attempt to re- 
write some parts of the Paradise Lost is a remarkable instance of this. 

In support of these observations, we may remark that scarcely any pa?- 
sages in the poems of Milton are more generally known, or more frequently 
repeated, than those which are little more than muster-rolls of names. They 
are not always more appropriate or more melodious than other names. But 
they are charmed names. Every one of them is the first link in a long chain 
of associated ideas. Like the dwelling-place of our infancy revisited in man- 
hood, like the song of our country heard in a strange land, they produce upon 
us an effect wholly independent of their intrinsic value. One transports us 
back to a remote period of history. Another places us among the moral 
scenery and manners of a distant country. A third evokes all the dear clas- 
sical recollections of childhood, the school-room, the dog-eared Virgil; the 
holiday, and the prize. A fourth brings before us the splendid phantoms of 
chivalrous romance, the trojphied lists, the embroidered housings, the quaint 


devices, the haunted forests, the enchanted gardens, the achievCTaent?. ojf 
enamoured knights, and the smiles of rescued princesses. 

In none of the works of Milton is tiis peculiar manner more happily dis- 
played than in the Allegro and the Penseroso. It is impossible to conceive 
that the mechanism of language can be brought to a more exquisite degree of 
perfection. These poems differ from others as ottar of roses differs from 
ordinary rose water, the close-packed essence from the thin diluted mixture. 
They are, indeed, not so much poems as collections of hints from each of 
which the reader is to make out a poem for himself. Every epithet is a text 
for a canto. ' 

The Comus and the Samson Agonistes are works which, though of very 
different merit, offer some marked points of resemblance. They are both 
lyric poems in the form of plays. There are, perhaps, no two kinds of compo- 
sition so essentially dissimilar as the drama and the ode. The business of the 
dramatist is to keep himself out of sight, and to let nothing appear but his 
characters. As soon as he attracts notice to his personal feelings the illusion is 
broken. The effect is as unpleasant as that which is produced on the stage by the 
voice of a prompter, or the entrance of a scene-shifter. Hence it was that the 
tragedies of Byron were his least successful performances. They resemble those 
pasteboard pictures invented by the friend of children, Mr. Newberry, in 
which a single movable head goes round twenty different bodies ; so that the 
same face looks out upon us successively from the uniform of a hussar, the 
furs of a judge, and the rags of a beggar. In all the characters, patriots and 
tyrants, haters and lovers, the frown and sneer of Harold were discernible in 
an instant. But this species of egotism, though fatal to the drama, is the 
inspiration of the ode. It is the part of the lyric poet to abandon himself, 
without reserve, to his own emotions. 

Between these hostile elements many great men have endeavoured to effect 
an amalgamation ; but never with complete success. The Greek drama, on 
the model of which the Samson was written, sprung from the ode. The 
dialogue was ingrafted on the chorus, and naturally partook of its character. 
The genius of the greatest of the Athenian dramatists co-operated with the 
circumstances under which tragedy made its first appearance. iEschylus was, 
head and heart, a lyric poet. In his time the Greeks had far more inter- 
course with the East than in the days of Homer ; and they had not yet ac« 
quired tha| immense superiority in war, in science, and in the arts which, in 
the followmg generation, led them to treat the Asiatics with contempt. From 
the narrative of Herodotus it should seem that they still looked up, with the 
veneration of disciples, to Egypt and Assjrria. At this period, accordingly, 
it was natural that the literature of Greece should be tinctured with the 
Oriental style. And that style, we think, is clearly discernible in the works' 
of Pindar and ^schylus. The latter often reminds us of the Hebrew writers. 
The book of Job, indeed, in conduct and diction, bears a considerabls resem- 
blance to some of his dramas. Considered as plays, his works are absurd : 
considered as choruses, they are above all praise; If, for instance, we ex- 
amine the address of Clytemnestra to Agamemnon on his return, or the de- 
scription of the seven Argive chiefs, by the principles of dramatic writing, we 
shall instantly condemn them as monstrous. But if we forget the character* 
and think only of the poetry, we shall admit that it has never been surpasses. 
in energy and magnificence. Sophocles made the Greek drama as dramatic 
as was consistent with its original form. His portraits of men have a sort of 
similarity ; but it is the similarity not of a painting, but of a bas-relief It 
suggests a resemblance ; but it does not produce an illusion. ' Euripides 
attempted to carry the reform further. But it was a task far beyond his powen^ 


perhaps beyond any powers. Instead of correcting what was bad, he de« 
stroyed what was excellent. He substituted crutches for stilts, bad sermons 
for good odes. 

Milton, it is well known, admired Euripides highly ; much more highly 
than, in our opinion, he deserved. Indeed the caresses which this partiality 
leads him to bestow on "sad Electra's poet," sometimes remind us of the 
beautiful Queen of Fairyland kissing the long ears of Bottom. At all events, 
there can be no doubt that his veneration for the Athenian, whether just or 
not, was injurious to the Samson Agonistes. Had he taken -^schylus for his 
model, he would have given himself up to the lyric inspiration, and poured 
out profusely all the treasures of his mind, without bestowing a thought on 
those dramatic proprieties which the nature of the work rendered it impossible 
to preserve. In the attempt to reconcile things in their own nature inconsis- 
tent he has failed, as every one else must have failed. We cannot identify 
ourselves with the characters, as in a good play. We cannot identify om- 
selves with the poet, as in a good ode. The conflicting ingredients, like an 
acid and an alkali mixed, neutralize each other. We are by no means in- 
sensible to the merits of this celebrated piece, to the severe dignity of the 
style, the graceful and pathetic solemnity of the opening speech, or the wild 
and barbaric melody which gives so striking an effect to the choral passages. 
But we think it, we confess, the least successful effort of the genius of Milton. 
. The Comus is framed on the model of the Italian masque, as the Samson 
is framed on the model of the Greek tragedy. 1 1 is certainly the noblest per- 
formance of the kind which exists in any language. It ir, as far superior to 
ihe Faithful Shepherdess as the Faithful Shepherdess is to Aminta, or the 
Aminta to the Pastor Fido. It was well for Milton that he had here no Euri- 
pides to mislead him. He understood and loved the literature of moderi 
Italy, But he did not feel for it the same veneration which he entertainecC 
for the remains of Athenian and Roman poetry, consecrated by so many lofty 
and endearing recollections. The faults, moreover, of his Italian predecessors 
were of a kind to which his mind had a deadly antipathy. He could stoop 
to a plain style, sometimes even to a bald style ; but false brilliancy was his 
utter aversion. His Muse had no objection to a russet attire : but she turned 
with disgust from the finery of Guarini, as tawdiy and as paltry as the rags of 
a chimney-sweeper on May-day. Whatever ornaments she wears are of mas- 
sive gold, not only dazzling to the sight, but capable of standing the severest 
test of the crucible. 

Milton attended in the Comus to the distinction which he neglected in the Sam- 
son. He made it what it ought to be, essentially lyrical, and dramatic only in 
semblance. He has not attempted a fruitless struggle against a defect inherent 
in the nature of that species of composition ; and he has, therefore, succeeded, 
wherever success was not impossible. The speeches must be read as majestic 
soliloquies ; and he who so reads them will be enraptured with their eloquence, 
their sublimity, and their music. The interruptions of the dialogue, however, 
impose a constraint upon the writer, and break the illusion of the reader. The 
fmest passages are those which are lyrics in form as well as in spirit. " I 
should much commend," says the excellent Sir Henry Wotton in a letter to 
Milton, ** the tragical part, if the lyrical did not ravish me with a certain 
dorique delicacy in your songs and odes, whereunto, I must plainly confess to 
you, I have seen yet nothing parallel in our language." The criticism was 
just. It is when Milton escapes from the shackles of the dialogues, when he 
is discharged from the labour of uniting two incongruous styles, when he is al 
liberty to indulge his choral raptures without reserve, that he rises even above 
himself. Then, like his own good genius bursting from the earthly form and 


weeds of Thyrsis, he stands forth in celestial freedom and beauty ; he seems to 
ay exultingly, 

" Now my task Is smoothly done, 
I can fly or I can run," 

to skim the earth, to soar above the clouds, to bathe in the Elysian dew of the 
rainbow, and to inhale the balmy smells of nard and cassia, which the xiusky 
wings of the zephyr scatter through the cedared alleys of the Hesperides.* 

There are several of the minor poems of Milton on which we would willingly 
make a few remarks. Still more willingly would we enter into a detailed ex- 
amination of that admirable poem, the Paradise Regained, which, strangely 
enough, is scarcely ever mentioned except as an instance of the blindness of 
that parental affection which men of letters bear towards the offspring of their 
intellects. That Milton was mistaken in preferring this work, excellent as it 
is, to the Paradise Lost, we must readily admit. But we are sure that the 
superiority of the Paradise Lost to the Paradise Regained is not more decided 
than the superiority of the Paradise Regained to every poem which has since 
made its appearance. But our limits prevent us from discussing the point at 
length. We hasten on to that extraordinary production which the general 
suffrage of critics has placed in the highest class of human compositions. 

The only poem of modern times which can be compared with the Paradise 
Lost is the Divine Comedy. The subject of Milton, in some points, resembled 
that of Dante ; but he has treated it in a widely different manner. We cannot, 
we think, better illustrate our opinion respecting our own great poet than by 
contrasting him with the father of Tuscan literature. 

The poetry of Milton differs from that of Dante as the Hieroglyphics of 
Sgypt differed from the picture-writing of Mexico. The images which Dante 
employs speak for themselves ; they stand simply for what they are. Those 
of Milton have a signification which is often discernible only to the initiated. 
Their value depends less on what they directly represent than on what they 
remotely suggest. However strange, however grotesque may be the appear- 
ance which Dante undertakes to describe, he never shrinks from describing it. 
He gives us the shape, the colour, the sound, the smell, the taste ; he counts 
the numbers ; he measures the size. His similes are the illustrations of a 
traveller. Unlike those of other poets, and especially of Milton, they are in- 
troduced in a plain, business-like manner, not for the sake of any beauty in the 
objects from which they are drawn, not for the sake of any ornament which 
they may impart to the poem, but simply in order to make the meaning of the 
writer as clear to the reader as it is to himself. The ruins of the precipice 
which led from the sixth to the seventh circle of hell were like those of the 
rock which fell into the Adige on the south of Trent. The cataract of Phle- 
gethon was like that of Aqua Cheta at the monastery of St. Benedict. The 
place where the heretics were confined in burning tombs resembled the vast 
cemetery of Aries ! 

• " There eternal summer dwells, 

And west winds, with musky wing. 
About the cedared alleys flinjj 
Nard and cassia's balmy smells : 
Iris there with humid bow 
Waters the odorous banks, that blow 
Flowers of more mingled hue 
Than her purfled scarf can show, 
■; And drenches with Elysian dew 

iList, mortals^ if your ears be true) 
Jeds of hyacmths and roses, 
Where young Adonis oft reposes. 
Waxing well of his deep wound,* 


Now let us compare with the exact details of Dante the dim intimations of 
Milton. We will cite a few examples. The English poet has never thought 
of taking the measure of Satan. He. gives us merely a vague idea of vast 
bulk. In one passage the fiend lies stretched out, huge in length, floating 
many a rood, equal in size to the eartli-born enemies of Jove, or to the sea- 
monster which the mariner mistakes for an island. When he addresses him- 
self to battle against the guardian angels, he stands like Teneriffe or Atlas ; 
his stature reaches the sky. Contrast with these descriptions the Unes in which 
Dante has described the gigantic spectre of Nimrod. '* His face seemed to 
me as long and as broad as the ball of St. Peter's at Rome ; and his other 
limbs were in proportion ; so that the bank, which concealed him from the 
waist downwands, nevertheless showed so much of him that three tall Ger- 
mans would in vain have attempted to reach to his hair." We are sensible 
that we do no justice to the admirable style of the Florentine poet. But Mr. 
Gary's translation is not at hand ; and our version, however rude, is sufficient 
to illustrate our meaning. 

Once more, compare the lazar-house in the eleventh book of the Paradise 
Lost with the last ward of Malebolge in Dante. Milton avoids the loathsome 
details, and takes refuge in indistinct but solemn and tremendous imagery. 
Despair hurrying from couch to couch to mock the wretches with his attendance, 
Death shaking his dart over them, but in spite of supplications, delaying to 
strike. What says Dante? **' There was such a moan there as there would 
be if all the sick who, between July and September, are in the hospitals of 
Valdichiana, and of the Tuscan swamps, and of Sardinia, were in one pit to- 
gether ; and such a stench was issuing forth as is wont to issue from decayed 

We will not take upon ourselves the invidious office of settling precedency 
between two such writers. Each in his own department is incomparable ; and 
each, we may remark, has, wisely or fortunately, taken a subject adapted to 
exhibit his peculiar talent to the greatest advantage. The Divine Gomedy is 
a personal narrative. Dante is the eye-witness and ear-witness of that which 
he relates. He is the very man who has heard the tormented spirits crying 
out for the second death, who has read the dusky characters on the portal 
within which there is no hope, who has hidden his face from the terrors of the 
Gorgon, who has fled from the hooks and the seething pitch of Barbariccia 
and Diaghignazzo. His own hands have grasped the shaggy sides of Lucifer. 
His own feet have climbed the mountain of expiation. His own brow has 
been marked by the purifying angel. The reader would throw aside such a 
<ale in incredulous disgust, unless it were told with the strongest air of ve- 
racity, with a sobriety even in its horrors, with the greatest precision and 
multiplicity in its details. The narrative of Milton in this respect differs from 
that of Dante as the adventures of Amadis differ from those of Gulliver. 
The author of Amadis would have made his book ridiculous if he had intro- 
duced those minute particulars which give such a charm to the work of Swift, 
Uhe nautical observations, the affected delicacy about names, the official 
documents transcribed at full length, and all the unmeaning gossip and scandal 
of the court, springing out of nothing, and tending to nothing. We are 
not shocked at being told that a man who lived, nobody knows when, saw 
many very strange sights^ and we can easily abandon ourselves to the illusion 
of the romance. But when Leniuel Gulliver, surgeon, new actually resident 
at Rotherhithe, tells us of pygmies and giants, flying islands and philosophiz- 
ing horses, nothing but such circijmstantial touches could produce for a single 
moment a deception on the imagination. 

Of all the poets who have introduced into their works the agency of super- 


natural beings, Milton has succeeded best. Here Dante decidedly yields to 
him. And as this is a point on which many rash and ill-considered judgments 
have been pronounced, we feel inclined to dwell on it 9 little longer. The 
most fatal error which a poet can possibly commit in tht management of his 
machinery is that of attempting to philosophize too much. Milton has been 
often censured for ascribing to spirits many functions of which spirits must be 
incapable. But these objections, though sanctioned by eminent names, origi- 
nate, we venture to say, in profound ignorance of the art of poetry. 

What is spirit ? What are our own minds, the portion of spirit with which v/e 
are best acquainted ? We observe certain phenomena. We cannot explain 
them into material causes. We therefore infer that there exists something 
which is not material. But of this something we have no idea. We can 
define it only by negatives. We can reason aboiit it only by symbols. We 
wse the word ; but we have no image of the thing ; and the business of 

Eoetry is with images, and not with words. The poet uses words indeed ; 
ut they are merely the instruments of his art, not its objects. They are the 
materials whitph he is to dispose in such a manner as to present a picture to 
the mental eye. And if they are not so disposed, they are no more entitled 
to be called poetry than a bale of canvas and a box of colours to be called a 

Logicians may reason about abstractions. But the great mass of mankind 
can never feel an interest in them. They must have images. The strong ten- 
dency of the multitude in all ages and nations to idolatry can be explained 
on no other principle. The first inhabitants of Greece, there is every reason 
to believe, worshipped one invisible Deity. But the necessity of having some- 
thing more definite to adore produced, in a few centuries, the innumerable 
crowd of gods and goddesses. In like manner the ancient Persians thought 
it impious to exhibit the Creator under a human form. Yet even these trans- 
ferred to the sun the worship which, speculatively, they considered due only, 
to the Supreme Mind. The history of the Jews is the record of a continued 
struggle between pure theism, supported by the most terrible sanctions, and 
the strangely fascinating desire of having some visible and tangible object oi 
adoration. Perhaps none of the secondary causes which Gibbon has assigned 
for the rapidity with which Christianity spread over the world, while Judaisia 
scarcely ever acquired a proselyte, operated more powerfully than this feeliiLg. 
God, the uncreated, the incomprehensible, the invisible, attracted few wor* 
shippers. A philosopher might admire so noble a conception : but the crowj 
turned away in disgust from words which presented no image to their mindi. 
It was before Deity embodied in a human form, walking among men, partak* 
ing of their infirmities, leaning on their bosoms, weeping over their graves, 
slumbering in the manger, bleeding on the cross, that the prejudices of the 
synagogue, and the doubts of the academy, and the pride of the portico, and 
the fasces of the lictor, and the swords of thirty legions, were humbled in the 
dust ! Soon after Christianity had achieved its triumph, the princip'e which 
had assisted it began to corrupt it. It became a new paganism. Patron saints 
assumed the offices of household gods. St. George took the place of Mars. 
St. Elmo consoled the mariner for the loss of Castor and Pollux. The Virgin 
Mother and Cecilia succeeded to Venus and the Muses. The fascination of 
sex and loveliness was again joined to that of celestial dignity ; and the homage 
of chivalry was blended with that of religion. Reformers have often made a 
stand against these feelings : but never with more than apparent and partial 
success. The men who demolished the images in cathedrals have not always 
been able to demolish those which were enshrined in their minds. It would 
not be difficult to show that in politics the same rule holds good. Doctrines 

If MTLTO^r, 

we are afraid, must generally be embodied before they can excite a strong public ' 
feeling. The multitude is more easily interested for the most unmeaning 
badge, or the most insignificant name, than for the most important principle. 

From these considerations we infer that no poet who should affect that 
metaphysical accuracy for the want of which Milton has been blamed would 
escape a disgraceful failure. Still, however, there was another extreme which, 
though far less dangerous, was also to be avoided. The imaginations of men 
are, in a great measure, under the control of their opinions. The most exqaisite 
art of poetical colouring can produce no illusion when it is employed to re- 
present that which is at once perceived to be incongruous and absurd. Milton 
wrote in an age of philosophers and theologians. It was necessary, therefore, 
for him to abstain from giving such a shock to their understandings as might 
break the charm which it was his object to throw over their imaginations. 
This is the real explanation of the indistinctness and inconsistency with which 
he has often been reproached. Dr. Johnson acknowledges that it was abso- 
lutely necessary for him to clothe his spirits with material forms. " But," says 
he, * ' he should have secured the consistency of his system by keeping im- 
materiality out of sight, and seducing the reader to drop it from his thoughts. " 
This is easily said ; but what if he could not seduce the reader to drop it from 
Ms thoughts ? What if the contrary opinion had taken so full a possession of 
the minds of men as to leave no room even for the guasi-belief which poetry 
requires ? Such we suspect to have been the case. It was impossible for the 
poet to adopt altogether the material or the immaterial system. He therefore 
took his stand on the debatable ground. He left the whole in ambiguity. 
He has doubtless, by so doing, laid himself open to the charge of inconsistency. 
But, though philosophically in the wrong, we cannot but believe that he was 
poetically in the right. This task, which almost any other writer would have 
found impracticable, was easy to him. The peculiar art which he possessed 
of communicating his meaning circuitously, through a long succession of asso- 
ciated ideas, and of intimating more than he expressed, enabled him to disguise 
those incongruities which he could not avoid. 

Poetry which relates to the beings of another world ought to be at once 
mysterious and picturesque. That of Milton is so. That of Dante is picturesque^ 
indeed, beyond any that ever was written. Its effect approaches to that pro' 
duced by the pencil or the chisel. But it is picturesque to the exclusion of a«. 
mystery. This is a fault, indeed, on the right side, a fault inseparable from th^ 
plan of his poem, which, as we have already observed, rendered the utmost 
accuracy of description necessary. Still it is a fault. His supernatural agents 
excite an interest ; but it is not the Interest which is proper to supernatural 
agents. We feel that we could talk with his ghosts and demons without any 
emotion of unearthly awe. We could, like Don Juan, ask them to supper, 
and eat heartily in their company. His angels are good men with wings. His 
devils are spiteful ugly executioners. His dead men are merely living men in 
strange situations. The scene which passes between the poet and Facinata is 
justly celebrated. Still Facinata in the burning tomb is exactly what' Facinata 
Would have been at an auto-da-fe. Nothing can be more touching than the 
first interview of Dante and Beatrice. Yet what is it but a lovely woman 
chiding, with sweet, austere composure, the lover for whose affection she is 
grateful, but whose vices she reprobates ? The feelings which give the passage 
its charm would suit the streets of Florence as well as the simimit of the 
Mount of Purgatory. 

The spirits of Milton are unlike those of almost all other writers. His 
fiends, in particular, are wonderful creations. They are not metaplvyslcal 
abstractions. They are not wicked men. They are not ugly beasts. They 

MILTON. - 13 

bave no horns, no tails, none of the fee-faw-fum of Tasso and Klopstoclc. 
They have just enough in common with human nature to be intelligible to 
human beings. Their characters are, like their forms, marked by a certain 
dim resemblance to those of men, but exaggerated to gigantic dimensions, and 
veiled in mysterious gloom. 

Perhaps the gods and demons of iEschylus may best bear a comparison 
with the angels and devils of Milton. The style of the Athenian had, as we 
have remarked, something of the vagueness and tenor of the Oriental cha- 
racter ; and the same peculiarity may be traced in his mythology. It has 
nothing of the amenity and elegance which we generally find in the supersti- 
tions of Greece. All is rugged, barbaric, and colossal. His legends seem to 
harmonize less vdth the fragrant groves and graceful porticos in which his 
countrymen paid their vows to the God of Light and Goddess of Desire than 
with those huge and grotesque labyrinths of eternal granite in which Egypt 
enshrined her mystic Osiris, or in which Hindoostan still bows down to her 
seven-headed idols. His favourite gods are those of the elder generations— 
the sons of heaven and earth, compared with whom Jupiter himself was a 
stripling and an upstart, — the gigantic Tirans and the inexorable Furies. 
Foremost among his creations of this class stands Prometheus, half fiend, half 
redeemer, the friend of man, the sullen and implacable enemy of heaven. He 
bears undoubtedly a considerable resemblance to the Satan of Milton. In 
both we find the same impatience of control, the same ferocity, the same un- 
conquerable pride. In both characters also are mingled, though in very dif- 
ferent proportions, some kind and generous feelings. Prometheus, however, 
is hardly superhuman enough. He talks too much of his chains and his 
uneasy posture : he is rather too much depressed, and agitated. His resolu- 
tion seems to depend on the knowledge which he possesses that he holds the 
fate of his torturer in his hands, and that the hour of his release will surely 
come. But Satan is a creature of another sphere. The might of his intellectual 
nature is victorious over the extremity of pain. Amidst agonies which cannot 
be conceived without horror he deliberates, resolves, and even exults. Against 
the sword of Michael, against the thunder of Jehovah, against the flaming 
lake, and the marl burning with solid fire, against the prospect of an eternity 
of unintermittent misery, his spirit bears up unbroken, resting on its own 
innate energies, requiring no support from anything external, nor even from 
hope itself ! 

To return for a moment to the parallel which we have been attempting to 
draw between Milton and Dante, we would add that the poetry of these great 
men has, in a considerable degree, taken its character from their moral qualities. 
They are not egotists. They rarely obtrude their idiosyncracies on their 
readers. They have nothing in common with those modern beggars for fame 
who extort a pittance from the compassion of the inexperienced by exposir.?; 
the nakedness and sores of their minds. Yet it would be difficult to nanio 
two writers whose works have been more completely, though undesignedly_, 
coloured by their personal feelings. 

The character of Milton was peculiarly distinguished by loftiness of thought; 
that of Dante by intensity of feeling. In every line of the Divine Coraet^y we 
discern the asperity which is produced by pride struggling with misery. There 
is perhaps no work in the world so deeply and uniformly sorrowful. The 
melancholy of Dante was no fantastic caprice. It was not, as far as at this dis. 
tance of time can be judged, the effect of external circumstances. It was from 
within. Neither love nor glory, neither the conflicts of earth nor the hop« 
of heaven could dispel it. It twined every consolation and every pleasure into 
Its own nature. It resembled that noxious Sardinian soil of which the inrcns« 


bitterness is said to have been perceptible even in its honey. His mind was, 
in the noble language of the Hebrew poet, "a land of darkness, as darkness 
itself, and where the light was as darkness ! " The gloom of his character dis- 
colours all the passions of men and all the face of nature, and tinges with its 
,own livid hue the flowers of Paradise and the glories of the Eternal Throne ! 
All the portraits of him are singularly characteristic. No person can look en 
the features, noble even to ruggedness, the dark furrows of the cheek, t'he 
haggard and woful stare of the eye, the sullen and contemptuous curve of the 
Up, and doubt that they belonged to a man too proud and too sensitive to be 

Milton was, like Dante, a statesman and a lover, and, like Dante, he had 
been unfortunate in ambition and in love. He had survived his health and 
his sight, the comforts of his home, and the prosperity of his party. Of the 
great men by whom he had been distinguished at his entrance into life, some 
had been taken away from the evil to come ; some had carried into foreign 
climates their unconquerable hatred of oppression ; some were pining in dun- 
geons ; and some had poured forth their blood on scaffolds. That hateful 
proscription, facetiously termed the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, had set « 
mark on the poor, blind, deserted poet, and held him up by name to the 
hatred of a profligate court and an inconstant people. Venal and licentious 
'scribblers, with just sufficient talent to clothe the thoughts of a pander iti the 
style of a bellman, were now the favourite writers of the sovereign and the 
public. It was a loathsome herd — which could be compared to nothing so 
fitly as to the rabble of Comus, grotesque monsters, half bestial, half human, 
dropping with wine, bloated with gluttony, and reeling in obscene dances. 
Admidst these his Muse was -placed, like the chaste lady of the masque, lofty, 
spotless, and serene — to be chattered at, and pointed at, and grinned at by 
the whole rabble of satyrs and goblins. If ever despondency and asperity 
could be excused in any man, it might have been excused in Milton. But the 
strength of his mind overcame every calamity. Neither blindness, nor gout, 
nor age, nor penury, nor domestic afflictions, nor political disappointments, 
nor abuse, nor proscription, nor neglect had power to disturb his sedate and 
majestic patience. His spirits do not seem to have been high, but they were 
singularly equable. His temper was serious, perhaps stem ; but it was a 
temper which no sufferings could render sullen or fretful. Such as it was 
when, on the eve of great events, he returned from his travels, in the prime of 
health and manly beauty, loaded with literary distinctions, and glowing with 
patriotic hopes, such it continued to be when, after having experienced every 
calamity which is incident to our nature, old, poor, sightless, and disgraced, 
he retired to his hovel to die. 

Hence it was that, though he wrote the Paradise Lost at a time of life when 
images of beauty and tenderness are in general beginning to fade, even from 
those minds in which they have not been effaced by anxiety and disappoint- 
ment, he adorned it with all that is most lovely and delightful in the physical 
nnd in the moral world. Neither Theocritus nor Ariosto had a finer or a more 
healthful sense of the pleasantness of external objects, or loved better to luxu- 
riate amidst sunbeams and flowers, the songs of nightingales, the juice of 
summer fruits, and the coolness of shady fountains. His conception of love 
unites all the voluptuousness of the Oriental harem and all the gallantry of 
chivalric tournament with all the pure and quiet affection of an English fire- 
side. His poetry reminds us of the miracles of Alpine scenery. Nooks and 
dells, beautiful as fairyland, are embosomed in its most rugged and gigantic 
elevations. The roses and myrtles bloom unchilled on the verge of the ava^ 


Traces, indeed, of the peculiar character of Milton may be found in all his 
works ; but it is most strongly displayed in the Sonnets. Those remarkable* 
poems have been undervalued by critics who have not understood their nature. 
They have no epigrammatic point. There is none of the ingenuity of Filicaja 
in the thought, none of the hard and brilliant enamel of Petrarch m the style. 
They are simple but majestic records of the feelings of the poet ; as little 
tricked out for the public eye as his diary would have been. A victory, an 
expected attack upon the city, a momentary fit of depression or exultation, a 
jest thrown out against one of his books, a dream which, for a short time, re- 
stored to him that beautiful face over which the grave had closed for ever, led 
him to musings which, without effort, shaped themselves into verse. The 
unity of sentiment and severity of style which characterizes these little pieces, 
remind us of the Greek Anthology, or perhaps still more of the Collects of the 
English Liturgy — the noble poem on the Massacres of Piedmont is strictly a 
collect in verse. 

The Sonnets are more or less striking, according as the occasions which 
gave birth to them are more or less interesting. But they are, almost without 
exception, dignified by a sobriety and greatness of mind to which we know 
not where to look for a parallel. It would, indeed, be scarcely safe to draw 
any decided inferences as to the character of a writer from passages directly 
egotistical. But the qualities which we have ascribed to Milton, though per- 
haps most strongly marked in those parts of his works which treat of his per- 
soaial feelings, are distinguishable in every page, and impart to all his writings, 
prose and poetry, English, Latin, and Italian, a strong family likeness. 

His public conduct was such as was to be expected from a man of a spirit so 
high and an intellect so powerful. He lived at one of the most memorable 
eras in the history of mankind ; at the very crisis of the great conflict between 
Oromasdes and Arimanes — liberty and despotism, reason and prejudice. That 
great battle was fought for no single generation, for no single land. The 
destinies of the human race were staked on the same cast with the freedom of 
the English people. Then were first proclaimed those mighty principles 
which have since worked their way into the depths of the American forests, 
which have roused Greece from the slavery and degradation of two thousand 
years, and which, from one end of Europe to the other, have kindled an un- 
quenchable fire in the hearts of the. oppressed, and loosed the knees of tlie 
oppressors with a strange and unwonted fear. 

Of those principles, then struggling for their infant existence, Milton was 
the most devoted and eloquent literary champion. We need not say how 
much we admire his public conduct. But we cannot disguise from ourselves 
that a large portion of his countrymen still think it unjustifiable. The civil 
war, indeed, has been more discussed and is less understood than any event 
in English history. The Roundheads laboured under the disadvantage of 
which the lion in the fable complained so bitterly. Though they were the 
conquerors, their enemies were the paintersk As a body, they had done their * 
utmost to decry and ruin literature ; and literature was even with them, as, in 
the long run, it always is with its enemies. The best book on their side of 
the question is the charming memoir of Mrs. Hutchinson. May's History 
of the Parliament is good ; but it breaks off at the most interesting crisis of 
the struggle. The performance of Ludlow is very foolish and violent ; and 
most of the later writers who have espoused the same cause, Oldmixon, for 
instance, and Catherine Macaulay, have, to say the least, been more dis- 
tinguished by zeal than either by candour or by skill. On the other side are 
the most authoritative and the most popular historical works in our language, 
that of Clarendon and that of Huuie. The former is not only ably written 


and full of valuable information, but has also an air of dignity and sincerity 
which makes even the prejudices and errors with which it abounds respect- 
able. Hume, from whose fascinating narrative the great mass of the reading 
public are still contented to take their opinions, hated religion so much that 
he hated liberty for having been allied with religion — and has pleaded the 
cause of tyranny with the dexterity of an advocate, while affecting the 
impartiality of a judge. 

The public conduct of Milton must be approved or condemned according 
as the resistance of the people to Charles I. shall appear to be justifiable or 
criminal. We shall, therefore, make no apology for dedicating a few pages to 
the discussion of that interesting and most important question. "We shall not 
argue it on general grounds ; we shall not recur to those primary principles 
from which the claim of any government to the obedience of its subjects is to 
be deduced ; it is a vantage-ground to which we are entitled ; but we will 
relinquish it. We are, on this point, so confident of superiority that we have 
no objection to imitate the ostentatious generosity of those ancient knights 
who vowed to joust without helmet or shield against all enemies, and to give 
their antagonists the advantage of sun and wind. We will take the naked 
constitutional question. We confidently affirm that every reason which can 
be urged in favour of the Revolution of 1688 may be urged with at lea^Jt 
equal force in favour of what is called the Groat Rebellion. 

In one respect only, we think, can the warmest admirers of Charles venture 
Yo say that he was a better sovereign than his son. He was not, in name and 
profession, a Papist ; we say in name and profession, — because both Charles 
himself and his miserable creature Laud, while they abjured the innocent 
badges of Popery, retained all its VTorst vices, a complete subjection of reason 
to authority, a weak preference of form to substance, a childish passion for 
mummeries, an idolatrous veneration for the priestly character, and above all, 
a stupid and ferocious intolerance. This, however, we wave. We will concede 
that Charles was a good Protestant ; but we say that his Protestantism does 
not make the slightest distinction between his case and that of James. 

The principles of the Revolution have often been grossly misrepresented, 
and never more than in the course of the present year. There is a certain 
class of men who, while they profess to hold in reverence the great names 
and great actions of former times, never look at them for any other purpose 
than in order to find in them some excuse for existing abuses. In every 
venerable precedent, they pass by what is essential, and take only what is 
accideDi;aI ; they keep out of sight what is beneficial, and hold up to public- 
'.mitation all that is defective. If in any part of any great example there be 
anything unsound, these flesh-flies detect it with sn unerring instinct, and dart 
i2pc:t it with a ravenous delight. They cannot always prevent the advocates 
of a good measure from compassing their end; but they feel, with their proto- 
type, that 

•' Their labours must be to pervert that end, 
And out of good still to find means of evil." 

■*i'b the blessings which England has derived from the Revolution these 
people are utterly insensible. The expulsion of a tyrant, the solemn recogni- 
tion of popular rights, liberty, security, toleration, all go for nothing with 
them. One sect there was, which, from unfortunate temporary causes, it was 
thought necessary to keep under close restraint. One part of the empire there 
was, so unhappily circumstanced, that at that time its misery was necessary to 
our happiness, and its slavery to our freedom ! These are the parts of the 
Revolution which the politicians of whom we speak love to contemplate, and 
which se^m to them, not indeed to vindicate, but in some degree to pa^iat« 


the good which it has produced. Talk to them of Naples, of Spain, or of 
South America ! they stand forth, zealots for the doctrine of Divine Right— 
which has now come back to us, like a thief from transportation, under the 
alias of Legitimacy. But mention the miseries of Ireland ! Then William 
is a hero. Then Somers and Shrewsbury are great men. Then the Revolu- 
tion is a glorious era ! The very same persons who, in this counti y, never 
omit an opportunity of reviving every wretched Jacobite slander respecting 
the Whigs of that period, have no sooner crossed St. George's Channel 
than they begin to fill their bumpers to the glorious and immortal memory. 
They may truly boast that they look not at men but at measures. So that evil 
be done, they care not who does it — the arbitrary Charles or the liberal 
William, Ferdinand the Catholic or Frederick the Protestant ! On such 
occasrons their deadliest opponents may reckon upon their candid construc- 
tion. The bold assertions of these people have of late impressed a large 
portion of the public with an opinion that James II. was expelled simply 
because he was a Catholic, and that the Revolution was essentially a Pro- 
testant Revolution. 

But this certainly was not the case. Nor can any person who has acquired 
more knowledge of the history of those times than is to be found in Gold- 
smith's Abridgment, believe that, if James had held his own religious 
opinions without wishing to make proselytes, or if, wishing even to make 
proselytes, he had contented himself wi'h exerting only his constitutional 
influence for that purpose, the Prince of Orange would ever have been 
invited over. Our ancestors, we suppose, knew their own meaning. And, 
if we may believe them, their hostility was primarily not to popery but to 
tyranny. They did not drive out a tyrant because he was a Catholic ; but 
they excluded Catholics from the crown because they thought them likely 
to be tyrants. The ground on which they, in their famous resolution, de- 
clared the throne vacant was this, *' that James had broken the fundamental 
laws of the kingdom." Every man, therefore, who approves of the Revo- 
lution of 1688 must hold that the breach of fundamental laws on the part of 
the sovereign justifies resistance. The question, then, is this : Had Charles I. 
broken the fundamental laws of England ? 

No person can answer in the negative, unless he refuses credit, not merely 
to all the accusations brought against Charles by his opponents, but to the 
narratives of the warmest Royalists, and to the confessions of the king him- 
self. If there be any truth in any historian of any party who has related 
the events of that reign, the conduct of Charles, from his accession to the 
meeting of the Long Parliament, had been a continued course of oppression 
and treachery. Let those who applaud the Revolution and condemn the 
Rebellion mention one act of James II. to which a parallel is not to be 
found in the history of his father. Let them lay their fingers on a single 
article in the Declaration of Right, presented by the two Houses to William 
and Mary, which Charles is not acknowledged to have violated. He had, 
according to the testimony of his own friends, usurped the functions of the 
legislature, raised taxes without the consent of Parliament, and quartered 
troops on the people in the most illegal and vexatious manner. Not a single 
session of Parliament had passed without some unconstitutional attack on the 
freedom of debate. The right of petition was grossly violated. Arbitrary 
judgments, exorbitant fines, and unwarranted imprisonments, were grievances 
of daily and hourly occurrence. If these things do not justify resistance, 
the Revolution was treason : if they do, the Great Rebellion was laudable. 

But, it is said, why not adopt milder measures ? Why, after the king had 
copisented tp so mj^ny reforms, and renounced so many oppressive prerogative 


did the Parliament continue to rise in their demands at the risk of provoking 
a civil war ? The Ship-money had been given up. The Star Chamber had 
been abolished. Provision had been made for the frequent convocation and 
secure deliberation of Parliaments. Why not pursue an end confessedly good, 
by peaceable and regular means ? We recur again to the analogy of the 
Revolution. Why was James driven from the throne? Why was he not 
retained upon conditions?" He too had offered to call a free Parhament, and 
to submit to its decision all the matters in dispute. Yet we praise our fore- 
fathers, who preferred a revolution, a disputed succession, a dynasty of 
strangers, twenty years of foreign and intestine war, a standing army, and a 
national debt, to the rule, however restricted, of a tried and proved tyrant. 
The Long Parliament acted on the same principle, and is entitled to the same 
praise. They could not trust the king. He had, no doubt, passed salutary 
laws. But what assurance had they that he would not break them ? He 
had renounced oppressive prerogatives. But where was the security that he 
would not resume them ? They had to deal with a man whom no tie could 
bind, a man who made and broke promises with equal faciUty, a man whose 
honour had been a hundred times pawned, and iiever redeemed. 

Here, indeed, the Long Parliament stands on still stronger ground than the 
Convention of 1688. No action of James can be compared, for wickedness 
and impudence, to the conduct of Charles with respect to the Petition of 
.Right. The Lords and Commons present him with a bill in which the con- 
stitutional limits of his power are marked out. He hesitates ; he evades ; at 
last he bargains to give his assent, for five subsidies. The bill receives his 
solemn assent. The subsidies are voted. But no sooner is the tyrant relieved 
than he returns at once to all the arbitrary measures which he had bound him- 
self to abandon, and violates all the clauses of the very act which he had been 
paid to pass. 

For more than ten years the people had seen the rights which were theirs 
by a double claim, by immemorial inheritance and by recent purchase, infringed 
by the perfidious king who had recognised them. At length circumstances 
compelled Charles to summon another Parliament: another chance was given 
them for liberty. Were they to throw it away as they had thrown away 
the former? Were they again to be cozened by le rot le veut? Were 
they again to advance their money on pledges which had been forfeited over 
and over again? Were they to lay a second Petition of Right at the foot of 
the throne, to grant another lavish aid in exchange for another unmeaning 
ceremony^ and then to take their departure till, after ten years more of fraud 
and oppression, their prince should again require a supply, and again repay it 
with a perjury ? They were compelled to choose whether they would trust 
a tyrant or conqtur him. We think that they chose wisely and nobly. 

The advocates of Charles, like the advocates of other malefactors against 
whom overwhelming evidence is produced, generally decline all controversy 
about the facts, and content themselves with caUing testimony to character. 
He had so many private virtues ! And had James II. no private virtues ? 
Was even Oliver Cromwell, his bitterest enemies themselves being judges, 
destitute of private virtues ? And what, after all, are the virtues ascribed to 
Charles? A religious zeal, not more sincere than that of his son, and fuUy as 
weak and narrow-minded, and a few of the ordinary household decencies 
which half the tomb stones in England claim for those who lie beneath them. 
A good father ! A good husband ! Ample apologies indeed for fifteen years 
ef persecution, tyranny, and falsehood ? 

We charge him with having broken his coronation-oath — and we are told 
ttiat he kept his marri^g;e-vow 1 We accuse him of having given up his people 


to the merciless inflictions of the most hot-headed and hard-hearted of prelates 
— and the defence is that he took his little son on his knee and kissed him ! 
We censure him for having violated the articles of the Petition of Right, 
after having, for good and valuable consideration, promised to observe them — 
and we are informed that he vi^as accustomed to hear prayers at six o'clock in 
the morning ! It is to such considerations as these, together wfth his Vandyke 
dress, his handsome face, and his peaked beard, that he owes, we verily believe, 
most of his popularity with the present generation. 

For ourselves, we o^^^l that we do not understand the common phrase, a 
good man but a bad kin.% We can as easily conceive a good man and an un- 
natural father, or a good man and a treacherous friend. We cannot, in estimat- 
ing the character of an individual, leave out of our consideration his conduct 
inlhe most important of all human relations. And if, in tliat relation, we 
find him to have been selfish, cruel, and deceitful, we shall take the liberty to 
call him a bad man, in spite of all his temperance at table and all his regu- 
larity at chapel. 

We cannot refrain from adding a few words respecting a topic on which the 
defenders of Chjarles are fond of dwelling. If, they say, he governed his 
people ill, he at least governed them after the example of his predecessors. 
If he violated their privileges, it. was because those privileges had not been 
accurately defined. No active oppression has ever been imputed to him 
which has not a parallel in the annals of the Tudors. This point Hume has 
laboured, with an art which is as discreditable in a historical work as it 
would be admirable in a forensic address. The answer is short, clear, and 
decisive. Charles had assented to the Petition of Right. He had renoitnced 
the oppressive powers said to have been exercised by his predecessors, and 
he had renounced them for money. He was not entitled to set up his anti- 
quated claims against his own recent release. 

These arguments are so obvious that it may seem superfluous to dwell upon 
them. But those who have observed how much the events of that time are 
misrepresented and misunderstood will not blame us for stating the case 
simply. It is a case of which the simplest statement is the strongest. 

The enemies of the Parliament, indeed, rarely choose to take issue on the 
great points of the question. They content themselves with exposing some of 
the crimes and follies to which public commotions necessarily give birth. 
They bewail the unmerited fate of Strafford. They execrate the lawless vio* 
lence of the army. They laugh at the Scriptural names of the preachers. 
Major-generals fleecing their districts ; soldiers revelling on the spoils of a 
ruined peasantry ; upstarts, enriched by the public plunder, taking possession 
of the hospitable firesides and hereditary trees of the old gentry ; boys smash- 
ing the beautiful windows of cathedrals ; Quakers riding naked through the 
market-place; Fifth-monarchy-men shouting for King Jesus; agitators lectur- 
ing from the tops of tubs on the fate of Agag — all these, they tell us, were 
the offspring of the Great Rebellion. 

Be it so. We are not careful to answer in this matter. These charges, 
were they infinitely more important, would not alter our opinion of an event 
which alone has made us to differ from the slaves who crouch beneath the 
sceptres of Brandenburgh and Braganza. Many evils, no doubt, were produced 
hy the civil war. They were the price of our liberty. Has the acquisition 
been worth the sacrifice ? It is the nature of the Dev^il of tyranny to tear and 
rend the body which he leaves. Are the miseries of continued possession less 
horrible than the struggles of the tremendous exorcism ? 

If it were possible that a people brought up under an intolerant and arbi- 
trary system could subvert that system without acts of cruelty and folly, half 

90 MILT Off. 

the objections to despotic power would be removed. We should, In that case, 
be compelled to acknowledge, that it at least produces no pernicious effects on 
the intellectual and moral character of a people. We deplore the outrages 
which accompany revolutions. But the more violent the outrages, the more 
assured we feel that a revolution was necessary. The violence of tliose outrages 
will always be proportioned to the ferocity and ignorance of the poople : and 
the ferocity and ignorance of the people will be proportioned to the oppression 
and degradation under which they have been accustomed to live. Thus it was 
in our civil war. The rulers in the Church and State reaped only that which 
they had sown. They had prohibited free discussion ; they had done their 
best to keep the people unacquainted with their duties and their rights. The 
retribution was just and natural. If they suffered from popular ignorance, it 
was because they had themselves taken away the key of knowledge. If they 
v.'fire assailed with blind fury, it was because they had exacted an equally 
blind submission. 

It is the character of such revolutions that we'always see the worst of them at 
first. Till men have been for some time free, they know not how to use their 
freedom. The natives of wine countries are always sober. In climates where 
wine is a rarity intemperance abounds. A newly liberated people may be 
compared to a northern army encamped on the Rhine or the Xeres. It is 
said that when soldiers in such a situation first find themselves able to indulge 
without restraint in such a rare and expensive luxury nothing is to be seen 
but intoxication. Soon, however, plenty teaches discretion ; and after wine 
has been for a few months their daily fare, they become more temperate than 
they had ever been in their own country. In the same manner, the final and 
permanent fruits of liberty are wisdom, moderation, and mercy. Its imme- 
diate effects are often atrocious crimes, conflicting errors, scepticism on points 
the most clear, dogmatism on points the most mysterious. It is just at this 
crisis that its enemies love to exhibit it. They pull down the scaffolding from 
the half-finished edifice : they point to the flying dust, the falling bricks, the 
comfortless rooms, the frightful irregularity of the whole appearance ; and then 
ask in scorn where the promised splendour and comfort is to be found ? If such 
miserable sophisms were to prevail, there would never be a good house or a 
good governm.ent in the world. 

Ariosto tells a pretty story of a fairy who, by some mysterious law of her 
nature, was condemned to appear, at certain seasons, in the form of a foul 
and poisonous snake. Those who injured her during the period of her dis- 
guise were for ever excluded from participation in the blessings which she 
bestowed. But to those who, in spite of her loathsome aspect, pitied and 
protected her, she afterwards revealed herself in the beautiful and celestial form 
which was natural to her, accompanied their steps, granted all their wishes, 
filled their- houses with wealth, made them happy in love and victorious in 
war.* Such a spirit is Liberty. At times she takes the form of a hateful 
reptile. She grovels, she hisses, she stings. But woe to those who, in dis- 
gust, shall venture to crush her ! And happy are those who, having dared to 
receive her in her degraded and frightful shape, shall at length be rewarded by 
her in the time of her beauty and her glory I 

There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom produces 
—and that cure \s freedom! When a prisoner first leaves his cell he cannot 
bear the light of day : he is unable to discriminate colours, or recognize 
faces. But the remedy is, not to remand him into his dungeon, but to accus- 
tom him to the rays of the sun. The blaze of truth and liberty may at firet 

• Orlando Furioso, canto 4j. 

MILTO^r. 21 

diAzzle and bewilder nations which have become half blind in the house of 
bondage. But let them gaze on, and they will soon be able to bear it. In a 
few years men learn to reason. The extreme violence of opinions subsides. 
Hostile theories correct each other. The scattered elements of truth cease to 
conflict, and begin to coalesce. And at length a system of justice and order 
is educed out of the chaos. 

Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self- 
evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their 
freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not 
to go into the water till he had learnt to swim ! If men are to wait for liberty 
till they become wnse and good in slavery, they may indeed wait for ever. 

Therefore it is that we decidedly approve of the conduct of Milton and 
the other wise and good men who, in spite of much that was ridiculous 
and hateful in the conduct of their associates, stood firmly by the cause of 
public liberty. We are not aware that the poet has been charged with per- 
sonal participation in any of the blamable excesses of that time. The 
favourite topic 'of his enemies is the line of conduct which he pursued with 
regard to the execution of the king. Of that celebrated proceeding we by no 
means approve. Still we must say, in justice to the many eminent persons who 
concurred in it, and in justice more particularly to the eminent person who 
defended it, that nothing can be more absurd than the imputations which, for 
the last hundred and sixty years, it has been the fashion to cast upon the 
regicides. We have throughout abstained from appealing to first principles ; 
we will not appeal to them now. We recur again to the parallel case of the 
Revolution. What essential distinction can be drawn between the execution 
of the father and the deposition of the son ? What constitutional maxim is 
there which applies to the former and not to the latter? The king can do 
no wrong. If so, James v/as as innocent as Charles could have been. The 
minister only ought to be responsible for the acts of the sovereign. If so, why 
not impeach Jeffries and retain James? The person of a king is sacred. 
Was the person of James considered sacred at the Boyne ? To discharge 
cannon against an army in which a king is known to be posted, is to approach 
pretty near to regicide. Charles too, it should always be remembered, was 
put to death by men who had been exasperated by the hostilities of several 
years, and who had never been bound to him by any other tie than that which 
was common to them with all their fellow citizens. Those who drove James 
from his throne, who seduced his army, who alienated his friends, who first im- 
prisoned him in his palace, and then turned him out of it, who broke in upon 
his very slumbers by imperious messages, who pursued him with fire and sword 
from one part of the empire to another, who hanged, drew, and quartered his 
adherents, and attainted his innocent heir, were his nephew and his two 
daughters ! When we rellect on all these things, we are at a loss to conceive 
how the sam« persons who, on the fifth of November thank God for wonder- 
fully conducting his servant King William, and for making all opposition fall 
beff»re him until he became our king and governor, can, on the thirtieth of 
January, contrive to be afraid that the blood of the Royal Martyr may be 
visited on themselves and their children. 

We do not, we repeat, approve of the execution of Charles ; not because 
the constitution exempts the king from responsibility, for we know that all 
such maxims, however excellent, have their exceptions ; nor because we feel 
any peculiar interest in 4iis character, for we think that his sentence describes 
him with perfect justice as **a tyrant, a traitor, a murderer, and a public 
enemj- ; " but because we are convinced that the measure was most injurious to 
the cause of freedom. He whom it removed was a captive and a hostage. 


His heir, to whom the allegiance of every Royalist was instantly transfened, 
A\ as at large. The Presbyterians could never have been perfectly reconciled to 
the father. They had no such a rooted enmity to the son. The great body of 
the people, also, contemplated that proceeding with feelings which, however 
unreasonable, no government could safely venture to outrage. 

£ut though we think the conduct of the regicides blamable, that of Milton 
appears to us in a very different light. The deed was done. It could not 
L»e undone. The evil was incurred; and the object was to render it as 
small as possible. We ceusure the chiefs of the army for not yielding to the 
popular opinion : but we cannot censure Milton for wishing to change that 
opinioa. The very feeling which would have restrained us from committing 
the act would have led us, after it had been committed, to defend it against 
the ravings of servihty and superstition. For the sake of public liberty we 
wish that the thing had not been done while the people disapproved of it. 
But, for the sake of public liberty, we should also have wished the people to 
approve of it when it was done. If anything more were wanting to the justi- 
fication of Milton, the book of Salmasius would furnish it. That miserable 
performance is now with justice considered only as a beakon to word-catchers 
who wish to become statesmen. The celebrity of the man who refuted it. 
the *'^nese magni dextra," gives it all its fame with the present generation. 
In that age the state of things was different. It was not then fully understood 
how vast an interval separates the mere classical scholar from the political 
philosopher. Nor can it be doubted that a treatise which, bearing the name 
of so eminent a critic, attacked the fundamental principles of all free govern- 
ments must, if suffered to remain unanswered, have produced a most per- 
nicious effect on the public mind. 

We wish to add a few words relative to another subject on which the 
enemies of Milton Relight to dwell — his conduct during the administration of 
ihe Protector. That an enthusiastic votary of liberty should accept office 
under a military usurper seems, no doubt, at first sight, extraordinary. But 
«I1 the circumstances in which the country was then placed were extraordinary, 
i'he ambition of Oliver was of no vulgar kind. He never seems to have 
coveted despotic power. He at first fought sincerely and manfully for the 
Parliament, and never deserted it till it had deserted its duty. If he dis- 
solved it by force, it was not till he found that the few members who remained, 
after so many deaths, secessions, and expulsions, were desirous to appropriate 
to themselves a power which they held only in trust, and to inflict upon Eng- 
jrind the curse of a Venetian oligarchy. But even when thus placed by 
violence at the head of affairs, he did not assume unlimited power. He gave 
the country a constitution far more perfect than any which had at that time 
been known in the world. He reformed the representative system in a 
manner which has extorted praise even from Lord Clarendon. . For himself 
he demanded, indeed, the first place in the Commonwealth ; but with powers 
scarcely so great as those of a Dutch stadtholder, or an American presider^t 
He gave the Parliament a voice in the appointment of ministers, and left to 
it the whole legislative authority — not even reserving to himself a veto on its 
enactments. And he did not require that the chief magistracy should be 
hereditary in his family. Thus far, we think, if the circumstances of the 
time, and the opportunities which he had of aggrandizing himself be fairly 
considered, he will not lose by comparison with Washington or Bolivar. 
Had his moderation been met by corresponding moderation, there is no reason 
to think that he would have ovei-stepped the line which he had traced for 
himself. But when he found that his Parliaments questioned the authority 
under which they met, and that he was in danger of being deprived of th« 

MILTOl^. 2$ 

restricted power which was absolutely necessary to his personal safety, then, 
It must be acknowledged, he adopted a more arbitrary policy. 

Yet, though we believe that the intentions of Cromwell were at first honest, 
though we believe that he was driven from the noble course which he had marked 
tut for himself by the almost irresistible force of circumstances, though we 
admire, in common with all men of all parties, the ability and energy of his 
splendid administration, we are not pleading for arbitrary and lawless power, 
even in his hands. We know that a good constitution is infinitely better than 
the best despot. But we suspect that, at the time of which we speak, the 
violence of religious and political enmities rendered a stable and happy 
settlement next to impossible. The choice lay, not between Cromwell and 
liberty, but between Cromwell and the Stuarts. That Milton chose well no 
man can doubt who fairly compares the events of the Protectorate with those 
of the thirty years which succeeded it — the darkest and most disgraceful in 
the English annals. Cromwell was evidently laying, though in an irregular 
manner, the foundations of an admirable system. Never before had religious 
liberty and the freedom of discussion been enjoyed in a greater degree. 
Never had the national honour been better upheld abroad, or the seat of 
justice better filled at home. And it was rarely that any opposition, which 
stopped short of open rebellion, provoked the resentment of the liberal and 
magnanimous usurper. The institutions which he had established, as set 
down in the Instrument of Government, and tlie Humble Petition and 
Advice, were excellent. His practice, it is true, too often departed from 
the theory of these institutions. But, had h^ lived a few years longer, it is 
probable that his institutions would have survived him, and that his arbitrary 
practice would have died with him. His power has not been consecrated by 
ancient prejudices. It was upheld only by his great personal qualities. 
Little, therefore, was to be dreaded from a second protector, unless he were 
also a second Oliver Cromwell. The events which followed his decease are 
the most complete vindication of those who exerted themselves to uphold his 
authority ; for his death dissolved the whole frame of society. The army 
80se against the Parliament, the different corps of the army against each 
other. Sect raved against sect. Party plotted against party. The Presby- 
teiians, in their eagerness to be revenged on the Independents, sacrificed 
their own liberty, and deserted all their old principles. Without casting one 
glance on the past, or requiring one stipulation for the future, they threw down 
their freedom at the feet of the most frivolous and heartless of tyrants. 

Then came those days, never to be recalled without a blush — the days of 
servitude without loyalty, and sensuality without love, of dwarfish talents and 
gigantic vices, the paradise of cold hearts and narrow minds, the golden age 
of the coward, the bigot, and the slave. The king cringed to his rival that 
he might trample on his people, sunk into a viceroy of France, and pocketed, 
with complacent infamy, her degrading insults and her more degrading gold. 
The caresses of harlots and the jests of buffoons regulated the measures of a 
government which had just ability enough to deceive and just religion enough 
to persecute. The principles of liberty were the scoff of every grinning courtier, 
and the Anathema Maranatha of every fawning dean. In every high place 
<vorship was paid to Charles and James — Belial and Moloch ; and England 

Eropitiated those obscene and cruel idols with the blood of her best and 
ravcst children. Crime succeeded to crime, and disgrace to disgrace, till the 
race accursed of God and man was a second time driven forth, to wander on 
the face of the earth, and to be a by- word and a shaking of the head to the 
Most of the remarks which we have hitherto made on the public character 


of Milton apply to him only as one of a large body. We shall proceed to notice 
some of the peculiarities which distinguished him from his contemporaries. 
And, for that purpose, it is necessary to take a short survey of the parties into 
which the political world was at that time divided. We must premise that 
our observations are intended to apply only to those who adhered, from a sin- 
cere preference, to one or to the other side. At a period of public commotion, 
every faction, like an oriental army, is attended by a crowd of camp followers, 
an useless and heartless rabble, who prowl round its line of march in the hope 
of picking up somethmg under its protection, but desert it in the day of battle, 
and often join to exterminate it after a defeat. England, at the time of which 
we are treating, abounded with such fickle and selfish politicians, who trans- 
ferred their support to every government as it rose ; who kissed the hand of 
the king in 1640, and spit in his face in 1649 ; who shouted with equal glee 
when Cromwell was inaugurated in Westminster Hall, and when he was dug 
up to be hanged at Tyburn ; who dined on calves' head or on broiled rumps, 
and cut down oak-branches or stuck them up as circumstances altered, without 
the slightest shame or repugnance. These we leave out of the account. We 
take our estimate of parties from those who really deserved to be called 

We would speak first of the Puritans, the most remarkable body of men, 
perhaps, which the world has ever produced. The odious and ridiculous parts 
.of their character lie on the surface. He that runs may read them ; nor have 
there been wanting attentive and malicious observers to point them out. For 
many years after the Restoration they were the theme of unmeasured in- 
vective and derision. They were? exposed to the utmost licentiousness of the 
press and of the stage, at the time when the press and stage were most licen- 
tious. They were not men of letters ; they were as a body unpopular ; they 
coiled not defend themselves ; and the public would not take them under its 
protection. They were, therefor^, abandoned, without reserve, to the tender 
mercies of the satirists and dramatists. The ostentatious simplicity of their 
dress, their sour aspect, their nasal twang, their stiff posture, their long graces, 
their Hebrew names, the Scriptural phrases which they introduced on every 
occasion, their contempt of human learning, their detestation of polite amuse- 
ments were, indeed, fair game for the laughers. But it is not from the laughers 
alone that the philosophy of history is to be learnt. And he who approaches 
this subject should carefully guard against the influence of that potent ridicule 
which has already misled so many excellent writers. 

" Ecco il fonte del riso, ed ccco il rio 
Che mortali perigli in se contiene ; 
Hor qui tener a fren nostro desio, 
Ed esser cauti molto a noi conviene."* 

Those who roused the people to resistance, who directed their measures 
through a long series of eventful years, who formed, out of the most unpro- 
mising materials, the finest army that Europe had ever seen, \vho trampled 
down king, church, and aristocracy, — who, in the short intervals of domestic 
sedition and rebellion, made the name of England terrible to every nation 
on the face of the earth, were no vulgar fanatics. Most of their absurdities 
were mere external badges, like the signs of freemasonry or the dresses of 
friars. We regret that these badges were not more attractive. We re- 
gret that a body to whose courage and talents mankind has owed inesti- 
mable obligations had not the lofty elegance which distinguished some of the 
adherents of Charles I., or the easy good-breeding for which the court of 

* Qerusalemme Libcr9t», xv. 47. 

MILTOI^. 55 

Charles II. was celebrated. But, if we must make our choice, we shall, like 
Bassanio in the play, turn from the specious caskets which contain only the 
Death's head and the Fool's head, and fix our choice on the plain leaden chest 
which conceals the treasure. 

The Puritans were men whose minds had derived a peculiar character from 
the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests. Not con- 
tent with acknowledging, in general terms, an overruling Providence, they 
habitually ascribed every event to the will of the Great Being, for whose 
power nothing was too vast, for whose inspection nothing was too minute. 
To know him, to serve him, to enjoy him, was with them the great end of 
existence. They rejected with contempt the ceremonious homage which other 
sects substituted for the pure worship of the soul. Instead of catching occa- 
sional gUmpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil, they aspired to gaze 
full on the intolerable brightness, and to commune with him face to face. 
Hence originated their contempt for terrestrial distinctions. The difference 
between the greatest and meanest of mankind seemed to vanish when com- 
pared with the boundless interval which separated the whole race from him 
on whom their own eyes were constantly fixed. They recognized no title to 
superiority but his favour ; and, confident of that favour, they despised all the 
accomplishments and all the dignities of the world. If they were unacquainted 
with the works of philosophers and poets, they were deeply read in the oracles 
of God. If their names were not found in the registers of heralds, they felt 
assured that they were recorded in the Book of Life. If their steps were not 
accompanied by a splendid train of menials, legions of ministering angels had 
charge over them. Their palaces were houses not made with hands ; their 
diadems, crowns of glory which should never fade away ! On the rich and the 
eloquent, on nobles and priests they looked down with contempt ; for they 
esteemed themselves rich in a more precious treasure and eloquent in a more 
sublime language ; nobles by the right of an earlier creation, and priests by 
the imposition of a mightier hand. The very meanest of them was a being to 
whose fate a mysterious and terrible importance belonged — on whose slightest 
action the spirits of light and darkness looked with anxious interest, who had 
been destined, before heaven and earth were created, to enjoy a felicity which 
should continue when heaven and earth should have passed away. Events 
which short-sighted politicians ascribed to earthly causes had been ordained 
on his account. For his sake empires had risen, and flourished, and decayed. 
For his sake the Almighty had proclaimed his will by the pen of the Evan- 
gelist and the harp of the prophet. He bad been wrested by no common 
deliverer from the grasp of no common foe. He bad been ransomed by the 
sweat of no vulgar agony, by the blood of no earthly sacrifice. It was for 
him that the sun had been darkened, that the rocks had been rent, that the 
dead had arisen, that all nature had shuddered at the sufferings of her expiring 

Thus the Puritan was made up of twc different men, the one all self-abase- 
ment, penitence, gratitude, passion ; the other proud, calm, inflexible, saga- 
cious. He prostrated himself in the dust before his Maker : but he set his 
foot on the neck of his king. In his devotional retirement he prayed with 
convulsions, and groans, and tears. He was half maddened by glorious or 
terrible illusions. He heard the lyres of angels or the tempting whispers of 
fiends. He caught a gleam of the Beatific Vision, or woke screaming frot;. 
dreams of everlasting fire. Like Vane, he thought himself intrusted with the 
Bceptre of the millennial year. Like Fleetwood, he cried in the bitterness of 
his soul that God had hid his face from him. But, when he took his seat in the 
council, or girt on his sword for war, these tempestuous workings of the soul 


had left no perceptible trace behind them. People who saw nothing of the 
godly but their uncouth visages, and heard nothing from them but th'^ir groans 
and their whining hymns, might laugh at them. But those had L:tle reason 
to laugh who encountered them in the hall of debate, or in the field of battle. 
These fanatics brought to civil and military affairs a coolness of judgment 
and an immutability of purpose which some writers have thought inconsistent 
with their religious zeal, but which were, in fact, the neccessary effects of it. 
The intensity of their feelings on one subject made them tranquil on every 
other. One overpowering sentiment had subjected to itself pity and hatred, 
ambition and fear. Death had lost its terrors, and pleasure its charms. They 
had their smiles and their tears, their raptures and their sorrows, but nt>t for 
the things of this world. Enthusiasm had made them Stoics, had cleared 
their minds from every vulgar passion and prejudice, and raised them above 
the influence of danger and of corruption. It sometimes might lead them to 
pursue unwise ends, but never to choose unwise means. They went through 
the world like Sir Artegale's iron man Talus with his flail, crushing and 
trampling down oppressors, mingling with human beings, but having neither 
part nor lot in human infirmities ; insensible to fatigue, to pleasure, and 
to pain ; not to be pierced by any weapon, not to be withstood by any 

Such we believe to have been the character of the Puritans. We perceive 
•the absurdity of their manners. We dislike the sullen gloom of their domestic 
habits. We acknowledge that the tone of their minds was often injured by 
straining after things too high for mortal reach : and we know that, in spite 
of their hatred of popery, they too often fell into the worst vices of that bad 
system, intolerance and extravagant austerity — that they had their anchorites 
and their crusades, their Dunstans and their De Montforts, their Dominies 
and their Escobars. Yet, when all circumstances are taken into consideration, 
we do not hesitate to pronounce them a brave, a wise, an honest and an useful 

The Puritans espoused the cause of civil liberty mainly because it was thfc 
cause of religion. There was another party, by no means numerous, but dis- 
tinguished by learning and ability, which co-operated with them on very 
different principles. We speak of those whom Cromwell was accustomed to 
call the Heathens, men who were, in the phraseology of that time, doubting 
Thomases or careless Gallios with regard to religious subjects, but passionate 
worshippers of freedom. Heated by the study of ancient literature, they set 
up their country as their idol, and proposed to themselves the heroes of Plu- 
tarch as their examples. They seem to have borne some resemblance to the 
Brissotines of the French Revolution. But it is not very easy to draw the 
line of distinction between them and their devout associates, whose tone and 
manner they sometimes found it convenient to affect, and sometimes, it is 
probable, imperceptibly adopted. 

We now come to the Royalists. We shall attempt to speak of them, as we 
have spoken of their antagonists, with perfect candour. We shall not charge 
upon a whole party the profligacy and baseness of the horseboys, gamblers, 
and bravoes, whom the hope of licence and plunder attracted from all the 
dens of Whitefriars to the standard of Charles, and who disgraced their asso- 
ciates by excesses which, under the stricter discipline of the Parliamentary 
armies, were never tolerated. We will select a more fnvourable specimen. 
Thinking, as we do, that the cause of the king was the cause of bigotry and 
tyranny, we yet cannot refrain from looking with complacency on the character 
of the honest old Cavaliers. We feel a national pride in comparing them 
with the instruments which the despots of other countries are compelled to 


employ, with the mutes who throng their antichambers, and the janissaties 
who mount guard at their gates. Our royalist countrymen were not heartless, 
dangling courtiers, bowing at every step and simpering at every word. They 
were not mere machines for destruction dressed up in uniforms, caned into 
skill, intoxicated into valour, defending without love, destroying without 
hatred. There was a freedom in their subserviency, a nobleness in their very 
degradation. The sentiment of individual independence was strong within 
them. They were, indeed, misled, but by no base or selfish motive. Com- 
passion and romantic honour, the prejudices of childhood, and the venerable 
names of history, threw over them a spell potent as that of Duessa ; and, 
like the Red-Cross Knight, they thought that they were doing battle for an 
injured beauty, while they defended a false and loathsome sorceress. In truth, 
they scarcely entered at all into the merits of the political question. It was 
not for a treacherous king or an intolerant church that they fought ; but for 
the old banner which had waved in so many battles over the heads »f their 
fathers, and for the altars at which they had received the hands of thdt brides. 
Though nothing could be more erroneous than their political opinions, they 
possessed, in a far greater degree than their adversaries, those qualities which 
are the grace of private life. "With many of the vices of the Round Table, 
they had also many of its virtues, courtesy, generosity, veracity, tenderness 
and respect for women. They had far more both of profound and of polite 
learning than the Puritans. Their manners were more engaging, their tem- 
pers more amiable, their tastes more elegant, and their households more 

Milton did not strictly belong to any of the classes which we have described. 
He was not a Puritan. He was not a free-thinker. He was not a Cavalier. 
In his character the noblest qualities of every party were combined in har- 
monious union. From the Parliament and from the Court, fx'om the con- 
venticle and from the Gothic cloister, from the gloomy and sepulchral circles 
a)f the Roundheads, and from the Christmas revel of the hospitable Cavalier, 
his nature selected and drew to itself whatever vi^as great and good, while it 
rejected all the base and pernicious ingredients by which those finer elements 
were defiled. Like the Puritans, he lived 

" As ever in his great task-master's eye." 

Like them he kept his mind continually fixed on an Almighty Judge and an 
eternal reward. And hence he acquired their contempt of external cir- 
cumstances, their fortitude, their tranquillity, their inflexible resolution. But 
not the coolest sceptic or the most profane scoffer was more perfectly free 
from the contagion of their frantic delusions, their savage manners, their 
ludicrous jargon, their scorn of science, and their aversion to pleasure. 
Hating tyranny with a perfect hatred, he had nevertheless all the estimable 
and ornamental qualities which were almost entirely monopolized by the party 
of the tyrant. There was none who had a stronger sense of the value of 
literature, a finer relish for every elegant amusement, or a more chivalrous 
delicacy of honour and love. Though his opinions were democratic, his 
tastes and his associations were such as harmonize best with monarchy and 
aristocracy. He was under the influence of all the feelings by which the 
gallant Cavaliers were misled. But of those feelings he was the master and 
not the slave. Like the hero of Homer, he enjoyed all the pleasure of fasci- 
nation ; but he was not fascinated. He listened to the song of the Syrens ; 
yet he glided by without being seduced to their fatal shore. He tasted the 
cup of Circe ; but he bore about him a sure antidote against the effects of its 
bewitching sweetness. The illusions which cuptivated his imagination nevw 


impaired his reasoning powers. The statesman was proof against the 
splendour, the solemnity, and the romance which enchanted the poet. Any 
person who will contrast the sentiments expressed in his Treatises on Pitlacy 
with the exquisite lines on Ecclesiastical architecture and music in the Pen- 
f«roso, which was published about the same time, will understand our meaning. 
This is an inconsistency which, more than anything else, raises his character 
in our estimation ; because it shows how many private tastes and feelings he 
sacrificed in order to do what he considered his duty to mankind. It is the 
very struggle of the noble Othello. His heart relents ; but his hand is firm. 
He does naught in hate, but all in honour. He kisses the beautiful deceiver 
before he destroys her. 

That from which the public character of Milton derives its great and peculiar 
splendour still remains to be mentioned. If he exerted himself to overthrow 
a foresworn king and a persecuting hiei-archy, he exertedhimself in conjunction 
with others; But the glory of the battle which he fought for that species of 
freedom which is the most valuable, and which was then the least understood, 
the freedom of the human mind, is all his own. Thousands and tens of thou- 
sands among his contemporaries raised their voices against Ship-money and the 
Star Chamber. But there were few indeed who discerned the more fearful evils 
of moral and intellectual slavery, and the benefits which would result from the 
liberty of the press and the unfettered exercise of private judgment. These 
were the objects which Milton justly conceived to be the most important He 
was desirous that the people should think for themselves as well as tax them- 
selves, and be emancipated from the dominion of prejudice as well as from 
that of Charles. He knew that those who, with the best intentions, over- 
looked these schemes of reform, and contented themselves with pulling down 
the king and imprisoning the malignants, acted like the heedless brothers in 
his own poem, who, in their eagerness to disperse the train of the sorcerer^ 
neglected the means of liberating the captive. They thought only of con- 
quering when they should have thought of disenchanting. 

"Oh, ye mistook ! Ye should have snatched the wand ! 
Without the rod reversed, 
And backward mutters of dissevering power. 
We cannot free the lady that sits here 
Bound in strong fetters, fixed and motionless. 

To reverse the rod, to spell the charm backward, to break the ties which 
bound a stupefied people to the seat of enchantment was the noble aim of 
Milton. To this all his public conduct was directed. For this he joined the 
Presbyterians — for this he forsook them. He fought their perilous battle ; but 
he turned away with disdain from their insolent triumph. He saw that they, 
like those whom they had vanquished, were hostile to the liberty of thought. 
He therefore joined the Independents, and called upon Cromwell to break 
the secular chain, and to save free conscience from the paw of the Presbyterian 
wolf.* With a view to the same great object, he attacked the licensing 
system, in that sublime treatise which every statesman should wear as a sign 
upon his hand, and as frontlets between his eyes. His attacks were, in general, 
directed less against particular abuses than against those deeply seated errors 
on which almost all abuses are founded, tlie servile worship of eminent men, 
and the irrational dread of innovation. 

That he might shake the foundation of these debasing sentiments more 
effectually, he always selected for himself the boldest literary services. He 
never came up in the rear when the outside works had been carried, and the 

• Sonnet to Cromwell, 


breach entered. He pressed into the forlorn hope. At the beginning of the 
changes he wrote with incomparable energy and eloquence against the bishopa 
Bat when his opinion seemed likely to prevail, he passed on to other subjects, 
and abandoned prelacy to the crowd of writers who now hastened to insult a 
falling party. There is no more hazardous enterprise than that of bearing the 
torch of truth into those dark and infected recesses in which no light has ever 
shone. But it was the choice and the pleasure of Milton to penetrate the noi- 
some vapours and to brave the terrible explosion. Those who most disap- 
prove of his opinions must respect the hardihood with which he maintained 
them. He, in general, left to others the credit of expounding and defending 
the popular parts of his religious and political creed. He took his own stand 
upon those which the great body of his countrymen reprobated as criminal, or 
derided as paradoxical. He stood up for divorce and regicide. He ridiculed, 
the Eikon. He attacked the prevailing systems of education. His radiant 
and beneficent career resembled that of the god of light and fertility. 

" Nitor in adversum ; nee me, qui csstera, vincit 
Impetus, et rapido contrarius evehor orbi." 

It is to be regretted that the prose writings of Milton should, in our time, 
be so little read. As compositions, they deserve the attention of every man 
who wishes to become acquainted with the full power of the English language. 
They abound with passages compared with which the finest declamations of 
Burke sink into insignificance. They are a perfect field of cloth of gold. 
The style is stiff, with gorgeous embroidery. Not even in the earlier books 
of the Paradise Lost has he ever risen higher than in those parts of his contro- 
versial works in which his feelings, excited by conflict, find a vent in bursts 
of devotional and lyric rapture. It is, to borrow hi* own majestic language, 
*' a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies." * 

We had intended to look more closely at these performances, to analyze the 
peculiarities of the diction, to dwell at some length on the sublime wisdom of 
the Areopagitica, and the nervous rhetoric of the Iconoclast, and to point out 
some of those magnificent passages which occur in the Treatise of Reforma- 
tion, and the Animadversions on the Remonstrant Bst the length to which 
our remarks have already extended renders this impossible. 

We must conclude. And yet we can scarcely tear ourselves away from the 
subject. The days immediately following the publication of this relic of 
Milton appear to be peculiarly set apart and consecrated to his memory. And 
we shall scarcely be censured if, on this his festival, we be found lingering near 
his shrine, how worthless soever may be the offering which we bring to it. While 
this book lies on our table, we seem to be contemporaries of the great poet. 
We are transported a hundred and fifty years back. We can almost fancy 
that we are visiting him in his small lodging j that we see him sitting at the 
old organ beneath the faded green hangings ; that we can catch the quick 
twinkle of his eyes, rolling in vain to find the day ; that we are reading in the 
lines of his noble countenance the proud and mournful history of his glory and 
his affliction ! We image to ourselves the breathless silence in which we 
should listen to his slightest word ; he passionate veneration with which we 
should kneel to kiss his hand and weep upon it ; the earnestness with which 
we should endeavour to console him, if, indeed, such a spirit could need conso- 
lation for the neglect of an age unworthy of his talents and his virtues ; the 
eagerness with which we should contest with his daughters, or with his Quaker 
friend Elwood, the privilege of reading Homer to him, or of taking down 
the immortal accents which flowed from his lipe. 

• The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelalcy, BooV II. 


These are, perhaps, foolish feehngs. Yet we cannot be ashamed of them ; 
ftor shall we be sorry if what we have written shall in any degree excite them 
in other minds. We are not much in the habit of idolizing either the living 
or the dead. And we think that there is no more certain indication of a weak 
and ill-regulated intellect than that propensity which, for want of a better 
name, we will venture to christen Boswellism. But there are a few characters 
which have stood the closest scrutiny and the severest tests, which have been 
tried in the furnace and have proved pure, which have been weighed in the 
balance and have not been found wanting, which have been declared sterling 
by the general consent of mankind, and which are visibly stamped with the 
image and superscription of the Most High. These great men we trust that 
we know how to prize ; and of these was Milton. The sight of his books, the 
sound of his name, are refreshing to us. His thoughts resemble those celes- 
tial fruits and flowers which the Virgin Martyr of Massinger sent down from 
the gardens of Paradise to the earth, distinguished from the productions of 
other soils, not only by their superior bloom aud sweetness, but by their 
miraculous efficacy to invigorate and to heal. They are powerful, not only to 
delight, but to elevate and purify. Nor do we envy the man who can study 
either the life or the writings of the great poet and patriot without aspiring 
to emulate, not indeed the sublime works with which his genius has enriched 
our literature, but the zeal with which he laboured for the public good, the 
fortitude with which he endured every private calamity, the lofty disdain with 
which he looked down on temptations and dangers, the deadly hatred which 
he bore to bigots and tyrants, and the faith which he s>o sternly kept with his 
country and with his fame. 

CEuvres completes de Machiavel, traduites par J. V. Perier. Paris, 1835. 

Those who have attended to the practice of our literaiy tribunal are well ■ 
aware that, by means of certain legal fictions similar to those of Westminster 
Hall, we are frequently enabled to take cognizance of cases lying beyond the 
sphere of our original jurisdiction. We need hardly say, therefore, that, in 
the present instance, M. Perier is merely a Richard Roe — that his name is used 
for the sole purpose of bringing Machiavelli into court — and that he will not 
be mentioned in any subsequent stage of the proceedings. 

We doubt whether any name in literary history be so generally odicus is 
that of the man whose character and writings we now propose to consider. 
The terms in which he is commonly described would seem to import that he. 
was the Tempter, the Evil Principle, the discoverer of ambition and revenge, 
the original inventor of perjury ; that, before the publication of his fatal Prince,' 
there had never been a hypocrite, a tyrant, or a traitor, a simulated virtue ot , 
a convenient crime. One writer gravely assures us that Maurice of Saxony- 
learned all his fraudulent policy from that execrable volume. Another remarks 
that, since it was translated into Turkish, the sultans have been more addicted 
than formerly to the custom of stranghng their brothers. Our own foolish 
Lord Lyttelton charges the poor Florentine with the manifold treasons of tha 
H^iuseof Guise and the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Several authors have 
hinted that the Gunpowder Plot is to be primarily attributed to his doctrines, 
and seem to think that his effigy ought to be substituted for that of Guy Faux 
in those processions by which the ingenuous youth of England annually com- 
memorate the preservation of the Three Estates. The Church of Rome has 
pronounced his works accursed things. Nor have oijr own countrymen been 


backward in testifying their opinion of his merits. Out of his surname they 
have coined an epithet for a knave — and out of his Christian name a syno- 
nym for the Devil.* 

It is, indeed, scarcely possible for any person not well acquainte^l with the 
history and literature of Italy to read, without horror and amazement, the 
celebrated treatise which has brought so much obloquy on the name of 
Machiavelli. Such a display of wickedness, naked, yet not ashamed, such 
cool, judicious, scientific atrocity seem rather to belong to a fiend than to the 
most depraved of men. Principles which the most hardened ruffian would 
scarcely hint to his most trusted accomplice, or avow, without the disguise 
of some palliating sophism, even to his own mind, are professed without 
the slightest circumlocution and assumed as the fundamental axioms of all 
political science. 

It is not strange that ordinary readers should regard the author of such a 
book as the most depraved and shameless of human beings. Wise men, 
however, have always been inclined to look with great suspicion on the angels 
and demons of _ the multitude : and in the present instance several circum- 
stances have led even superficial observers to question the justice of the vulgar 
decision. It is notorious that Machiavelli was, through life, a zealous republi- 
can. In the same year in which he composed his manual of King-craft he 
suffered imprisonment and torture in the cause of public liberty. It seems 
inconceivable that the martyr of freedom should have designedly acted as the 
apostle of tjrranny. Several eminent writers have, therefore, endeavoured to 
detect, in this unfortunate performance, some concealed meaning, more con- 
sistent with the character and conduct of the author than that which appears 
at the first glance. 

One hypothesis is that Machiavelli intended to practise on the young 
Lorenzo de Medici a fraud similar to that which Sunderland is said to have 
employed against our James the Second — that he urged his pupil to violent 
and perfidious measures, as the surest means of accelerating the moment of 
deliverance and revenge. Another supposition, which Lord Bacon seems to 
countenance, is that the treatise was merely a piece of grave irony, intended 
to warn nations against the arts of ambitious men. It would be easy to show 
that neither of these solutions is eonsistent with many passages in the Prince 
itself. But the most decisive refutation is that which is furnished by the other 
works of Machiavelli. In all the writings which he gave to the public, and 
in all those which the research, of editors has, in the course of three centuries, 
discovered, in his comedies, designed for the entertainment of the multitude, 
in his Comments on Livy, intended for the perusal of the most enthusiastic 
patriots of Florence, in his History, inscribed to one of the most amiable and 
estimable of the popes in his public despatches, in his private memoranda, 
the same obliquity of moral principle for which the Prince is so severely 
censured is more or less discernible. We doubt whether it would be possible 
to find, in all the many volumes of his compositions, a single expression 
indicating that dissimulation and treachery had ever struck him as dis- 

After this it may seem ridiculous- to say that we are acquainted with few 
writings which exhibit so much elevation of sentiment, so pure and warm a 
leal for the public good, or so just a view of the duties and rights of citizens 
as those of Machiavelli. Yet so it is. And even from the Prince itself we 

• Nick Michiavel had ne'er a trick, 
Tho' he gave his name to our old Nick. 

Hudibras, Part iii., canto f 
But, we believe, there r a schism on this subject among the antiquarians. 


could select matiy passages in support of this remark. To a reader of our agR 
and country this inconsistency is, at first, perfectly bewildering. The whole 
man seems to be an enigma — a grotesque assemblage of incongruous qualities 
— selfishness and generosity, cruelty and benevolence, craft and simplicity, 
abject villany and romantic heroism. One sentence is such as a veteran diplo- 
matist would scarcely write in cipher for the direction of his most confidential 
spy ; the next seems to be extracted from a theme composed by an ardent 
schoolboy on the death of Leonidas. An act of dexterous perfidy, and an act 
of patriotic self-devotion, call forth the same kind and the same degree of 
respectful admiration. The moral sensibility of the writer seems at once to 
be morbidly obtuse and morbidly acute. Two characters altogether dis- 
^similar are united in him. They are not merely joined, but interwoven. 
They are the warp and the woof of his mind ; and their combination, like 
that of the variegated threads in shot silk, gives to the whole texture a glanc- 
ing and ever-changing appearance. The explanation might have been easy if 
he had been a very weak or a very affected man. But he was evidently neither 
the one nor the other. His works prove, beyond all contradiction, that his 
understanding was strong, his taste pure, and his sense of the ridiculous 
exquisitely keen. 

This is strange — and yet the strangest is behind. There is no reason what- 
ever to think that those amongst whom he lived saw anything shocking or 
, incongruous in his writings. Abundant proofs remain of the high estimation 
in which both his works and his person were held by the most respectable 
among his contemporaries. Clement the Seventh patronized the publication 
of those very books which the Council of Trent, in the following generation, 
pronounced unfit for the perusal of Christians. Some members of the demo- 
cratical party censured the secretary for dedicating the Prince to a patron wha 
bore the unpopular name of Medici. But to those immoral doctrines which 
have since called forth such severe reprehensions no exception appears to 
have been taken. The cry against them was first raised beyond the Alps— 
and seems to have been heard with amazement in Italy. The earliest assailant, 
as far as we are aware, was a countryman of our own. Cardinal Pole. The 
author of the Anti-Machiavelli was a French Protestant. 

It is, therefore, in the state of moral feeling among the Italians of those 
times that we must seek for the real explanation of what seems most myste- 
rious in the life and writings of this remarkable man. A» this is a subject 
which suggests many interesting considerations, both political and meta- 
physical, we shall make no apology for discussing it at some length. 

During the gloomy and disastrous centuries which followed the downfall of 
the Roman Empire Italy had preserved, in a far greater degree than any 
other part of Western Europe, the traces of ancient civilization. The night 
which descended upon her was the night of an Arctic summer : the dawn 
began to reappear before the last reflection of the preceding sunset had faded from 
the horizon. It was in the time of the French Morovingians and of the Saxoo 
Heptarchy that ignorance and ferocity seemed to have done their worst. Yet 
even then the Neapolitan provinces, recognizing the authority of the Eastern 
empire, preserved something of Eastern knowledge and refinement. Rome, 
protected by the sacred character of its pontiffs, enjoyed at least comparative 
security and repose. Even in those regions where the sanguinary Lombards 
had fixed their monarchy there was incomparably more of wealth, of inform- 
ation, of physical comfort, and of social order than could be found in Gaul, 
Britain, or Germany. 

That which most distinguished Italy from the neighbouring countries was 
the importance which the population of the towns, from a very early period, 


a^- - • -— — ' - 

began to acquire. Some cities, founded in wild and remote situations by fugi- 
tives who had escaped from the rage of the barbarians, preserved their freedom 
by their obscurity, till they became able to preserve it by their power. Others 
seem to have retained, under all the changing dynasties of in/aders, under 
Odoacer and Theodoric, Narses and Alboin, the municipal institutions which 
had been conferred on them by the liberal policy of the Great Republic In 
provinces which the central government was too feeble either to protect or to 
oppress these institutions first acquired stability and vigour. The citizens, 
defended by their walls and governed by their own magistrates and their own 
by-laws, enjoyed a considerable share of republican independence. Thus a. 
strong democratic spirit was called into action. The Carlovingian sovereigns * 
were too imbecile to subdue it. The generous policy of Otho encouraged it. 
It might, perhaps, have been suppressed by a close coalition between the 
Church and the empire. It was fostered and invigorated by their disputes. In 
the twelfth century it attained its full vigour, and, after a long and doubtful 
conflict, triumphed over the abilities and courage of the Swabian princes. 

The assistance of the ecclesiastical power had greatly contributed to the 
success of the Guelfs. That success would, however, have been a doubtful 
good, if its only effect had been to substitute a moral for a political servitude, 
to exalt the popes at the expense of the Caesars. Happily the public mind of 
Italy had long contained the seeds of free opinions, wlaich were now/rapidly 
developed by the genial influence of free institutions. The people -of that 
;ountry had observed the whole machinery of the Church, its saints and its 
miracles, its lofty pretensions and its splendid ceremonial, its worthless bless- 
ings and its harmless curses too long and too closely to be duped. They 
stood behind the scenes on which others were gazing with childish awe and 
interest. They witnessed the arrangement of the pullies and the manufacture 
of the thunders. They saw the natural faces and heard the natural voices of 
the uctors. Distant nations looked on the pope as the vicegerent of the 
Almigiity, the Oracle of the All- wise, the umpire from whose decisions, in the 
disputes either of theologians or of kings, no Christian ought to appeal. The 
Italians were acquainted with all the follies of his youth, and with all the dis- 
honest arts by which he had attained power. They knew how often he had 
employed the keys ot the Church to release himself from the most sacred en- 
gagements, and its wealth to pamper his mistresses and nephews. The doc- 
trines and rites of the established religion they treated with decent reverence, 
But though they still called themselves Catholics, they had ceased to be 
papists. Those spiritual arms which carried terror into the palaces and 
camps of the proudest sovereigns excited only their contempt. When Alex- 
ander commanded our Henry II. to submit to the lash before the tomb of 
a rebellious subject, he was himself an exile. The Romans, apprehending 
that he entertained designs against their liberties, had driven him from 
their city ; and, though he solemnly promised to confine himself for the future 
to his spiritual functions, they still refused to readmit him. 

In every other part of Europe a large and powerful privileged class trampled 
on the people and defied the government. ' But, in the most flourishing parts 
of Italy the feudal nobles were reduced to comparative insignificance. In 
some districts they took shelter under the protection of the powerful common- 
wealths which they were unable to oppose, and gradually sank into the mass 
of burghers. In others they possessed great influence, but it was an influence 
widely different^ from that which was exercised by the chieftains of the Trans- 
alpine kingdoms. They were not petty princes, but eminent citizens. Instead 
of strengthening their fastnesses among the mountains, they embellished their 
palaces iu the market-place. The state of society in the Neapolitan dominiong 


M Machiav&lll 

and in some parts of the Ecclesiastical State more nearly resembled that which 
existed in the great monarchies of Europe. But the governments of Lombardy 
and Tuscany, through all their revolutions, preserved a different character. A 
people virhen assembled in a town is far more formidable to its rulers than wheli 
dispersed over a wide extent of country. The most arbitrary of the Caesars found 
it necessary to feed and divert the inhabitants of their unwieldy capital at the 
expense of the provinces. The citizens of Madrid have more thtn once be- 
sieged their sovereign in his own palace, and extorted from him the most 
humiliating concessions. The sultans have often been compelled to propitiate 
the furious rabble of Constantinople with the head of an unpopular vizier. 
From the same cause there was a certain tinge of democracy in the monarchies 
and aristocracies of Northern Italy. 

Thus liberty, partially, indeed, and transiently, revisited Italy ; and with 
liberty came commerce and empire, science and taste, all the comforts and 
all the ornaments of life. The Crusades, from which the inhabitants of other 
coxmtries gained nothing but relics and wounds, brought the rising common- 
wealths of the Adriatic and Tyrrhene seas a large increase of wealth, dominions, 
and knowledge. Their moral and their geographical position enabled them 
to profit alike by the barbarism of the West and by the civilization of the 
East. Their ships covered every sea. Their factories rose on every shore. 
Their money-changers set their tables in every city. Manufactures flourished. 
' Banks were established. The operations of the commercial machine were 
facilitated by many useful and beautiful inventions. We doubt whether any 
country of Europe, our own, perhaps, excepted, have at the present time 
reached so high a point of wealth and civilization as some parts of Italy had 
attained four hundred years ago. Historians rarely descend to those details 
from which alone the real state of a community can be collected. Hence 
posterity is too often deceived by the vague hyperboles of poets and rheto- 
ricians, who mistake the splendour of a court for the happiness of a people. 
Fortunately, John Villani has given us an ample and precise account of the 
state of Florence in the earlier part of the fourteenth century. The revenue 
of the Republic amounted to three hundred thousand florins, a sum which, 
allowing for the depreciation of the precious metals, was at least equivalent 
to six hundred thousand pounds sterling ; a larger sum than England and 
Ireland, two centuries ago, yielded annually to Elizabeth — a larger sum 
than, according to any computation which we have seen, the Grand Duke of 
Tuscany now derives from a territory of much greater extent. The manu- 
facture of wool alone employed two hundred factories and thirty thousand 
workmen. The cloth annually produced sold, at an average, for twelve 
hundred thousand florins ; a sum fairly equal, in exchangeable value, to two 
millions and a half of our money. Four hundred thousand florins were 
annually coined. Eighty banks conducted the commercial operations, not of 
Florence only, but of all Europe. The transactions of these establishments 
wcsre sometimes of a magnitude which may surprise even the contemporaries 
of the Barings and the Rothschilds. Two houses advanced to Edward III. 
of England upwards of three huiidred thousand marks, at a time when 
the mark contained more silver than fifty shillings of the present day, and 
when the value of silver was more than quadruple of what it now is. The 
city and its environs contained a hundred and seventy thousand inhabitants. 
In the various schools about ten tliousand children were taught to read; 
twelve hundred studied arithmetic ; six hundred received a learned education. 
The progress of elegant literature and of the fine arts was proportioned to 
that of the public prosperity. Under the despotic successors of Augustus all 
tlie fields of the intellect had been turned into arid wastes, still marked out 


by formal boundaries, still retaining the traces of old cultivation, but yielding 
neither flowers nor fruit. The deluge of barbarism came. It swept away all 
the landmarks. It obliterated all the signs of former tillage. But it fertilized 
while it devastated. When it receded, the wilderness was as the garden of 
God, rejoicing on every side, laughing, clapping its hands, pouring forth, in 
spontaneous abundance, everything brilliant, or fragrant, or nourishing. A 
new language, characterized by simple sweetness and simple energy, had 
attained its perfection. No tongue ever furnished more gorgeous and vivid 
tints to poetry : nor was it long before a poet appeared tvho knew how to em- 
ploy them. Early, in the fourteenth century came forth the Divine Comedy, 
beyond comparison the greatest work of imagination, which had appeared 
since the poems of Homer. The following generation produced, indeed, no 
second Dante; but it was eminently distinguished by general intellectual 
activity. The study of the Latin writers had never been wholly neglected in 
Italy. But Petrarch introduced a more profound, liberal, and elegant scholar- 
ship ; and communicated to his countrymen that enthusiasm for the literature, 
the history, and the antiquities of Rome which divided his own heart with a 
frigid mistress and a more frigid Muse. Boccaccio turned their attention to the 
more sublime and graceful models of Greece. 

From this time the admiration of learning and genius became almost ar 
idolatry among the people of Italy. Kings and republics, cardinals and 
doges, vied with each other in honouring and flattering Petrarch. Embassies 
from rival states solicited the honour of his instructions. His coronation 
agitated the Court of Naples and the people of Rome as much as the most 
important political transaction could have done. To collect books and 
antiques, to found professorships, to patronize men of learning, became 
almost universal fashions among the great. The spirit of literary research 
allied itself to that of commercial enterprise. Every place to which the 
merchant princes of Florence extended their gigantic traffic, from the bazaars 
of the Tigris to the monasteries of the Clyde, was ransacked for medals 
and manuscripts. Architecture, painting, and sculpture were munificently 
encouraged. Indeed, it would be diffi^^ult to name an Italian of eminence, 
during the period of which we speak, who, whatever may have been his 
general character, did not at least affect a love of letters and of the arts. 

Knowledge and public prosperity continued to advance together. Both 
attained their meridian in the age of Lorenzo the Magnificent. We cannot 
refrain from quoting the splendid passage, in which the Tuscan Thucydides 
describes the state of Italy at that period : — " Ridotta tutta in somma pace e 
tranquiilita, coltivata non meno ne' luoghi piii montuosi e piii sterili che 
nelle pianure e regioni piii fertili, ne sottoposta ad altro imperio che de' suoi 
medesimi, non solo era abbondantissima d'abitatori e di ricchezze ; ma illus* 
trata sommamente dalla magnificenza di molti principi, dallo splendore di 
molte nobilissime e bellissime citta, dalla sedia e maest^ della religione, 
fioriva d' uomini prestantissimi nell' amministrazione delle cose pubbliche, « 
d'ingegni molto nobili in tutte le scienze, ed in qualunque arte preclara ed 
industriosa." * When we peruse this just and splendid description we can 
scarcely persuade ourselves that we are reading of times in which the annals of 
England and France present us only with a frightful spectacle of poverty, bar- 
barity, and ignorance. From the oppressions of illiterate masters and the 
sufferings of a brutalized peasantry, it is delightful to turn to the opulent and 
enlightened States of Italy — to the vast and magnificent cities, the ports, the 
nrsenals, the villas, the museums, the libraries, the marts filled with every 

* Ouicdardini^ lib L 


article of comfort or luxury, the manufactories swarming with artisans, the 
Apennines covered with rich cultivation up to their very summits, the Po 
wafting the harvests of Lombardy to the granaries of Venice, and carrying 
back the Jellies of Bengal and the furs of Siberia to the palaces of Milan. With 
peculiar pleasure every cultivated mind must repose on the fair, the happy, 
the glcrloi;? Florence ; on the halls which rung with the mirth of Pulci ; the 
cell vi'here iwinkled the midnight lamp of Politian, the statues on which 
the young ey-. cf Michael Angelo glared with the frenzy of a kindred inspira- 
tion, the gardens in which Lorenzo meditated some sparkling soQg for the 
May-day dance of the Etrurian virgins. Alas, for the beautiful city ! Alas, for 
the wit and the learning, the genius and the love ! 

" Le donne, i cavalier, gli affanni, gli agi, 
Che ne'nyogliava amore e cortesia, 
La dove i cuor son fatti si malvagi."t 

A time was at hand when all the seven vials of the Apocalypse were to ba 
poured forth and shaken out over those pleasant countries — a time of slaugh- 
ter, famine, beggary, infamy, slavery, despair ! 

In the Italian States, as in many natural bodies, untimely decrepitude wai 
the penalty of precocious maturity. Their early greatness and their early 
decline are principally to be attributed to the same cause — the preponderance 
which the towns acquired in the political system. 

In a community of hunters or of shepherds every man easily and necessarily 
becomes a soldier. Plis ordinary avocations are perfectly compatible with all 
the duties of military service. However remote may be the expedition on 
which he is bound, he finds it easy to transport with him the stock from 
which he derives his subsistence. The whole people is an army ; the whole 
year a march. Such was the state of society which facilitated the gigantic 
conquests of Attila and Timour. 

But a people which subsists by the cultivation of the earth is in a very 
different situation. The husbandman is bound to the soil on which he labours. 
A long campaign would be ruinous to him. Still his pursuits are such as give 
to his frame both the active and the passive strength necessary to a soldier. 
Nor do they, at least in the infancy of agricultural science, demand his uninter- 
rupted attention. At particular times of the year he is almost wholly unem- 
ployed, and can, without injury to himself, afford the time necessary for a short 
expedition. Thus the legions of Rome were supplied during its earlier wars. 
The season during which the famis did not require the presence of the cultiva- 
tors sufficed for a short inroad and a battle. These operations, too frequently 
interrupted to produce decisive results, yet served to keep up among the 
people a degree of discipline and courage which rendered them, not only 
secure, but formidable. The archers and billmen of the middle ages, who, 
with provisions for forty days at their backs, left the fields for the camp, were 
troops of the same description. 

But when commerce and manufactures begin to flourish a great change 
takes place. The sedentary habits of the desk and the loom render the exer- 
tions and hardships of war insupportable. The occupations of traders and 
artisans require their constant presence and attention. In such a community 
there is little superfluous time ; but .here is generally much superfluous money. 
Some members of the society are, therefore, hired to relieve the rest from a 
task inconsistent with their habits and engagements. 

The history of Greece is, in this, as in many other respects, the best com- 
mentary on the history of Italy. Five hundred years before the Christian era 

* Dante PurflE»torlo, xiv. 


the citizens of the republics round the .(Egean Sea formed perhaps the finest 
militia that ever existed. As wealth and refinement advanced, the system 
underwent a gradual alteration. The Ionian States were the first in which com- 
merce and the arts were cultivated — and the first in which the ancient discipline 
decayed. Within eighty years after the battle of Platsea mercenary troops were 
everywhere plying for battles and sieges. In the time of Demosthenes it was 
scarcely possible to persuade or compel the Athenians to enlist for foreign ser- 
vice. The laws of Lyurcgus prohibited trade and manufactures. The Spartans, 
therefore, continued to form a national force long after their neighbours had 
begun to hire soldiers. But their military spirit declined with ther singular 
institutions. In the second century Greece contained only one nation of 
warriors, the savage highlanders of ^tolia, who were at least ten generations 
behind their countrymen in civilization and intelligence. 

All the causes which produced these effects amongst the Greeks, acted still 
more strongly on the modern Italians. Instead of a power like Sparta, in its 
nature warlike, they had amongst them an ecclesiastical state, in its nature 
pacific. Where there are numerous slaves every freeman is induced by the 
strongest motives to familiarize himself with the use of arms. The common- 
wealths of Italy did not, like those of Greece, swarm with thousands of these 
household enemies. Lastly, the mode in which military operations were con- 
ducted during the prosperous times of Italy was peculiarly unfavourable to 
the formation of an efficient militia. Men covered with iron from head to 
foot, armed with ponderous lances, and mounted on horses of the largest 
breed, were considered as composing the strength of an army. The infantry 
was regarded as comparatively worthless, and was neglected till it became 
really so. These tactics maintained their ground for centuries in most parts 
of Europe. That foot soldiers could withstand the charge of heavy cavalry 
was thought utterly impossible, till, towards the close of the fifteenth century, 
the rude mountaineers of Switzerland dissolved the spell, and astounded the 
most experienced generals by receiving the dreaded shock on an impenetrable 
forest of pikes. 

The use of the Grecian spear, the Roman sword, or the modem bayonet 
might be acquired with comparative ease. But nothing short of the daily 
exercise of years could train the man at arms to support his ponderous 
panoply, and manage his unwieldy weapon. Throughout Europe this most 
important branch of war became a separate profession. Beyond the Alps, 
indeed, though a profession, it was not generally a trade. It AYas the duty 
and the amusement of a large class of country gentlemen. It was the service 
by which they held their lands', and the diversion by which, in the absence of 
mental resources, they beguiled their leisure. But in the Northern States of 
Italy, as we have already remarked, the growing power of the cities, where it 
had not exterminated this order of men, had completely changed their habits. 
Here, therefore, the practice of employing mercenaries became universal at km 
time when it was almost unknown in other countries. 

When war becomes the trade of a separate class the least dangerous cawrse 
left to a government is to form that class into a standing army. It is scarcely 
possible that men can pass their lives in the service of a single state without 
feeling some interest in its greatness. Its victories are their victories. Its 
defeats are their defeats. The contract lose? something of its mercantile 
character. The services of the soldier are considered as the effects of patriotic 
zeal, his pay as the tribute of national gratitude. To betray the power which 
employs him, to be even remiss in its service, are in his eyes the most atrocious 
and degrading of crimes. 

When the princes and commonwealths of Italy began to use hired troops, 


tbeir wisest course would have been to form separate military establishments. 
Unhappily this was not done. The mercenary warriors of the Peninsula, 
instead of being attached to the service of different powers, were regarded a« 
the common property of all. The connexion between the state and its 
defenders was reduced to the most simple and naked traffic. The adventurer 
\rought his, horse, his weapons, his strength, and his experience into the 
/larket. Whether the King of Naples or the Duke of Milan, the pope or the 
Signory of Florence struck the bargain, was to him a matter of perfect in- 
difference. He was for the highest wages and the longest term. When the 
campaign for which he had contracted was finished, there was neither law nor 
punctilio to prevent him from instantly turning his arms against his late 
masters. The soldier was altogether disjoined from the citizen and from the 

The natural consequences followed. Left to the conduct of men who 
neither loved those whom they defended nor hated those whom they opposed 
. — who were often bound by stronger ties to the army against which they 
fought than the state which they served — who lost by the termination of the 
conflict, and gained by its prolongation, war completely changed its character. 
Every man came into the field of battle impressed with the knowledge that, in 
a few days, he might be taking the pay of the power against which he was 
then employed and fighting by the side of his enemies against his associateSa 
The strongest interest and the strongest feelings concurred to mitigate the 
hostility of those who had lately been brethren in arms, and who might soon 
be brethren in arms once more. Their common profession was a bond of 
union not to be forgotten even when they were engaged in the service of con- 
tending parties. Hence it was that operations, languid and indecisive beyond 
any recorded in history, marches and countermarches, pillaging expeditions 
and blockades, bloodless capitulations and equally bloodless combats, make 
up the military history of Italy during the course of nearly two centuries. 
Mighty armies fight from sunrise to sunset. A great victory is won. Thou- 
sands of prisoners are taken ; and hardly a life is lost ! A pitched battle 
seems to have been really less dangerous than an ordinary civil tumult. 

Courage was now no longer necessary even to the military character. Men 
grew old in camps, and acquired the highest renown by their warlike achieve- 
ments, without being once required to face serious danger. The political 
consequences are too well known. The richest and most enlightened part of 
the world was left, undefended, to the assaults of every barbarous invader — ■ 
to the brutality of Switzerland, the insolence of France, and the fierce rapacity 
of Arragon. The moral effects which followed from this state of things were 
still more remarkable. 

Among the rude nations which lay beyond the Alps valour was absolutely, 
indispensable. Without it none could be eminent ; few could be secure. 
Cowardice was, therefore, naturally considered as the foulest reproach. 
Among the polished Italians, enriched by commerce, governed by law, and 
passionately attached to literature, everything was done by superiority of in- 
telligence. Their very wars, more pacific than the peace of their neighbours, 
required rather civil than military qualifications. Hence, while courage was 
^he point of honour in other countries, ingenuity became the point of honour 
in Italy. 

From these principles were deduced, by processes strictly analogous, two 
opposite systems of fashionable morality. Through the greater part of 
Europe the vices which peculiarly belong to timid dispositions, and which are 
the natural defence of weakness, fraud and hypocrisy, have always been most 
disreputable. On the other hand, th$ exces^-es of haughty and daring spirits 


have been treated with indulgence, and even with respect. The Italians re^ 
garded with corresponding lenity those crimes which require self-command, 
address, quick observation, fertile invention, and profound knowledge of 
human nature. 

Such a prince as our Henry V. would have been the idol of the North. 
The follies of his youth, the selfish and desolating ambition of his man- 
hood, the Lollards roasted at slow fires, the prisoners massacred on the 
field of battle, the expiring lease of priestcraft renewed for another century, 
the dreadful legacy of a causeless and hopeless war bequeathed to n people 
who had no interest in its event, everything is forgotten but the victory of 
Agincourt ! Francis Sforza, on the other hand, was the model of the Italian 
hero. He made his employers and his rivals alike his tools. He first over- 
powered his open enemies by the help of faithless allies ; he then armed him- 
self against his allies with the spoils taken from his enemies. By his incom- 
parable dexterity, he raised himself from the precarious and dependent situa- 
tion of a military adventurer to the first throne of Italy. To such a man 
much was forgiven — hollow friendship, ungenerous enmity, violated faith. 
Such are the opposite errors which men commit, when their morality is not 
a science, but a taste ; when they abandon eternal principles for accidental 

We have illustrated our meaning by an instance taken from history. We 
v/ill select another from fiction. Othello murders his wife ; he gives orders 
for the murder of his lieutenant ; he ends by murdering himself. Yet he 
never loses the esteem and affection of a Northern reader — his* intrepid and 
ardent spirit redeeming everything. The unsuspecting confidence with which 
he listens to his adviser, the agony with which he shrinks from the thought of 
shame, the tempest of passion with which he commits his crimes and the 
haughty fearlessness with which he avows them, give an extraordinary interest 
to his character. lago, on the contrary, is che object of universal loathing. 
Many are inclined to suspect that Shakespeare has been seduced into an exag- 
geration unusual with him, and has drawn a monster who has no archetype in 
human nature. Now we suspect that an Italian audience in the fifteenth cen- 
tury would have felt very differently. Othello would have inspired nothing 
but detestation and contempt. The folly with which he trusts to the friendly 
professions of a man whose promotion he had obstructed — the credulity with 
which he takes unsupported assertions and trivial circumstances for unanswer- 
able proofs, the violence with which he silences the exculpation till the excul- 
pation can only aggravate his misery, would have excited the abhorrence and 
disgust of the spectators. The conduct of lago they would assuredly have 
condemned ; but they would have condemned it as we condemn that of his 
victim. Something of interest and respect would have mingled with their 
disapprobation. The readiness of his wit, the clearness of his judgment, the 
fkill with which he penetrates the dispositions of others and conceals his 
own, would have insured to him a certain portion of their esteem. ; 

So wide was the difference betweai the Italians and their neighbours. A 
similar difference existed between the Greeks of the second century before 
Christ and their masters the Romans. The conquerors, brave and resolute, 
faithful to their engagements, and strongly influenced by religious feelings, 
were, at the same time, ignorant, arbitrary, and cruel. With th?; vanquished 
people were deposited all the art, the science, and the literature of the western 
world. In poetry, in philosophy, in painting, in architecture, in sculpture, 
they had no rivals. Their manners were pQlished, their perceptions acute, their 
invention ready; they were tolerant, affable, humane. But of courage and 
sincerity they were almost utterly destitute. The rude warriors who kad sub« 


dued them consoled themselves for their intellectual inferiority by remarking 
that knowledge and taste seemed only to make men atheists, cowards, and 
slaves. The distinction long continued to be strongly marked, and furnished 
an admirable subject for the fierce sarcasms of Juvenal. 

The citizen of an Italian commonwealth was the Greek of the time of 
Juvenal and the Greek of the time of Pericles joined in one. Like the former 
he was timid and pliable, artful and unscrupulous. But, like the latter, he had 
a country. Its independence and prosperity were dear to him. If his character 
were degraded by some mean crimes, it was, on the other hand, ennobled by 
public spirit and by an honourable ambition. 

A vice sanctioned by the general opinion is merely a vice. The evil termi- 
nates in itself. A vice condemned by the general opinion produces a pernicious 
effect on the whole character. The former is a local malady, the latter a 
constitutional taint. When the reputation of the offender is lost he too often 
Hings the remains of his virtue after it in despair. The Highland gentleman 
who, a century ago, lived by taking black mail from his neighbours, committed 
the same crime for which Wild was accompanied to Tyburn by the huzzas of 
two hundred thousand people. But there can be no doubt that he was a much 
less depraved man than Wild. The deed for which Mrs. Brownrigg was hanged 
sinks into nothing when compared with the conduct of the Roman who treated 
the public to a hundred pair of gladiators. Yet we should probably wrong 
'such a Roman if we supposed that his disposition was so cruel as that of Mrs. 
Brownrigg. In our own country a woman forfeits her place in society by 
what, in a min, is too commonly considered as an honourable distinction, and, 
at worst, as a venial error. The consequence is notorious. The moral prin- 
ciple of a woman is frequently more impaired by a single lapse from virtue than 
that of a man by twenty years of intrigue. Classical antiquity would furnish 
us with instances stronger, if possible, than those to which we have referred. 

We must apply this principle to the case before us. Habits of dissimulation 
and falsehood, no doubt, mark a man of our age and country as utterly worth- 
less and abandoned. But it by no means follows that a similar judgment would 
be just in the case of an Italian of the middle ages. On the contrary, we 
frequently find those faults which we are accustomed to consider as certain 
indications of a mind altogether depraved, in company with great and good 
qualities, with generosity, with benevolence, with disinterestedness. From 
such a state of society Palamedes, in the admirable dialogue of Hume, might 
have drawn illustrations of his theory as striking as any of those with which 
Fourli furnished him. These are not, we well know, the lessons which his- 
torians are generally most careful to teach, or readers most willing to learn. 
But they are not therefore useless. How Philip disposed his troops at Chcer- 
onea, where Hannibal crossed the Alps, whether Mary blew up Darnley, or 
Siquier shot Charles XII., and ten thousand other questions of the same 
description, are in themselves unimportant. The inquiry may amuse us, but 
the decision leaves us no wiser. He alone reads history aright who, observing 
how powerfully circumstances influence the feelings and opinions of men, how 
often vices pass into virtues, and paradoxes into axioms, learns to distinguish 
what is accidental and transitory in human nature from what is essential and 

In this respect no history suggests more important reflections than that of 
the Tuscan and Lombard 'commonwealths. The character of the Italian 
statesman seems, at first sight, a collection of contradictions, a phantom as 
monstrous as the portress of Hell in Milton, half divinity, half snake, majestic 
and beautiful above, grovelling and poisonous below. We see a man whose 
thoughts and words have no connexioa with each other ; who never hesitates 


at an oath when he wishes to seduce, who never wants a pretext when he is 
inclined to betray. His cruelties spring, not from the heat of blood, or the 
insanity of uncontrolled power, but from deep and cool meditation. His 
passions, like well-trained troops, are impetuous by rule, and in their most 
headstrong fury never forget the discipline to which they have been accustomed. 
His whole soul is occupied with vast and complicated schemes of ambition* 
Yet his aspect and language exhibit nothing but philosophic moderation. 
Hatred and revenge eat into his heart. — Yet every look is a cordial smile, 
every gesture a familiar caress. He never excites the suspicion of his adver- 
sary by petty provocations. His purpose is disclosed only when it is accom- 
plished. His face is unruffled, his speech is courteous, till vigilance is laid 
asleep, till a vital point is exposed, till a sure aim is taken ; and then he strikes 
— for the first and last time. Military courage, the boast of the sottish Germai^, 
the frivolous and prating Frenchman, the romantic and arrogant Spaniard, he 
neither possesses nor values. He shuns danger — not because he is insensible 
to shame, but because, in the society in which he lives, timidity has ceased to 
be shameful. " To do an injury openly is, in his estimation, as wicked as to do 
it secretly — and far less profitable. With him the most honourable means are 
the surest, the speediest, and the darkest. He cannot comprehend how a 
man should scruple to deceive him whom he does not scruple to destroy. He 
would think it madness to declare open hostilities against a rival whom he 
might stab in a friendly embrace, or poison in a consecrated wafer. 

Yet this man, black with vices which we consider as most loathsome — 
traitor, hypocrite, coward, assassin^was by no means destitute even of those 
virtues which we generally consider as indicating superior elevation of cha- 
racter. In civil courage, in perseverance, in presence of mind, those bar- 
barous warriors who were foremost in the battle or the breach were far his 
inferiors. Even the dangers which he avoided with a caution almost pusil- 
lanimous never confused his perceptions, never paralysed his inventive facul- 
ties, never wrung out one secret from his ready tongue and his inscrutable 
brow. Though a dangerous enemy and a still more dangerous accomplice, 
he was a just and beneficent ruler. With so much unfairness in his policy, 
there was an extraordinary degree of fairness in his intellect. Indifferent to 
truth in the transactions of life, he was honestly devoted to the pursuit of truth 
in the researches of speculation. Wanton cruelty was not in his nature. On 
the contrary, where no political obiect was at stake, his disposition was soft 
and humane. The susceptibility o f his nerves and the activity of his imagina- 
tion inclined him to sympathize with the feelings of others and to delight in 
the charities and courtesies of social life. Perpetually descending to actions 
which might seem to mark a mind diseased through all its faculties, he had, 
nevertheless, an exquisite sensibility, both for the natural and the moral sub- 
lime, for every graceful and every lofty conception. Habits of petty intrigue 
and dissimulation might have rendered him incapable of great general views, 
but that the expanding effect of his philosophical studies counteracted the 
narrowing tendency. He had the keenest enjoyment of wit, eloquence, and 
poetry. The fine arts profited alike by the severity of his judgment and the 
lil)erality of his patronage. The portraits of some of the remarkable Italians 
of those times are perfectly in harmony with this description. Ample and 
majestic foreheads, brows strong and dark, but not frowning, eyes of which 
the calm, full gaze, while it expresses nothing, seems to discern everything ; 
cheeks pale With thought and sedentary habits, lips formed with feminine 
delicacy, but compressed with more than masculine decision, mark out men 
at. once enterprising and apprehensive ; men equally skilled in detecting the 
purposes of others, and in concealing their own j men who must have been 


formidable enemies and unsafe allies ; but men, at the same time, whose 
tempers were mild and equable, and who possessed an amplitude and subtlety 
of mind which would have rendered them eminent either in active or in con- 
templative life, and fitted them either to govern or to instruct mankind. 

Ev«y age and every nation has certain characteristic vices, which prevail 
almost universally, which scarcely any person scmples to avow, and which 
even rigid moralists but faintly censure. Succeeding generations change the 
fashion of their morals, with their hats and their coaches ; take some other 
kind of wickedness under their patronage, and wonder at the depravity of 
their ancestors. Nor is this all. Posterity, that high court of appeal, which 
is never tired of eulogizing its own justice and discernment, acts, on such 
occasions, like a Roman dictator after a general mutiny. Finding the de- 
linquents too numerous to be all punished, it selects some of them at hazard, 
to bear the whole penalty of an offence in which they are not more deeply 
implicated than those who escape. Whether decimation be a convenient mode 
of military execution, we know not ; but we solemnly protest against the 
introduction of such a principle into the philosophy of history. 

In the present instance the lot has fallen on Machiavelli ; a man whose 
public conduct was upright and honourable, whose views of morality, where 
they differed from those of the persons around him, seemed to have differed 
for the better, and whose only fault was that, having adopted some of the 
maxims then generally received, he arranged them more luminously anc? ex- 
pressed them more forcibly than any other writer. 

Having now, we hope, in some degree cleared the personal character of 
Machiavelli, we come to the consideration of his works. As a poet, he is 
not entitled to a very high place. The Decennali are merely abstracts of the 
history of his own times in rhyme. The style and versification are sedulously 
modelled on those of Dante. But the manner of Dante, like that of every 
other great original poet, was suited only to his own genius, and to his own 
subject. The distorted and rugged diction which gives to his unearthly 
imagery a yet more unearthly character, and seems to proceed from a man 
labouring to express that which is inexpressible, is at once mean and extra- 
vagant when misemployed by an imitator. The moral poems are in every 
point superior. That on Fortune, in particular, and that on Opportunity 
exhibit both justness of thought and fertility of fancy. The Golden Ass has 
nothing but the name in common with the Romance of Apuleius — a book 
which, in spite of its irregular plan and its detestable style, is among the most 
fascinating in the Latin language, and in which the merits of Le Sage and 
Radcliflie, Bunyan and Crebillon, are singularly united. The poem of Machia- 
velli, which is evidently unfinished, is carefully copied from the earlier cantos 
of the Inferno. The writer loses himself in a wood. He is terrified by 
monsters and relieved by a beautiful damsel. His protectress conducts him 
to a large menagerie of emblematical beasts, whose peculiarities are described 
at length. The manner, as well as the plan, of the Divine Comedy is care- 
fully imitated. Whole lines are transferred from it. But they no longer pro 
duce their wonted effect. Virgil advises the husbandman who removes a 
plant from one spot to another to mark its bearings on the cork, and to place 
it in the same position with regard to the different points of the heaven iu 
which it formerly stood. A similar care is necessary in poetical transplant- 
ation. Where it is neglected we perpetually see the flowers of language 
which have bloomed on one soil wither on another. Yet the Golden Ass is 
not altogether destitute of merit. There is considerable ingenuity in the 
adlegory and some vivid colouring in the description. 

The Comedies deserve more attention. The Mandragola, in particulnr, i. 


superior to the best of Goldoni, and inferior only to the best of Moliere, It 
is the work of a man who, if he had devoted himself to the drama, would 
probably have attained the highest eminence, and produced a permanent and 
salutary effect on the national taste. This we infer, not so much from the 
degree as from the kind of its excellence. There are compositions which 
indicate still greater talent, and which are perused with still greater delight, 
from which we should have drawn very different conclusions. Books quite 
worthless are quite harmless. The sure sign of the general decline of an art 
is the frequent occurrence, not of deformity, but of misplaced beauty. Iq 
general, tragedy is corrupted by eloquence, and comedy by wit. 

The real object of the drama is the exhibition of the human character. This, 
we conceive, is no arbitrary canon, originating in local and temporary asso- 
ciations, like those which regulate the number of acts in a play, or of syllables 
in a line. It is the very essence of a species of composition in which every 
idea is coloured by passing through the medium of an imagined mind. To 
this fundamental law every other regulation is subordinate. The situations 
which most signally develop character form the best plot. The mother tongue 
of the passions is the best style. 

This principle, rightly understood, does not deb^r tke poet from any grace 
of composition. There is no style in which some man may not, under some 
circumstances, express himself. There is, therefore, no style which the drama 
rejects, none which it does not occasionally require. It is in the discern- 
ment of place, of time, and of person that the inferior artists fail. The bril- 
liant rhodomontade of Mercutio, the elaborate declamation of Antony, are, 
where Shakespeare has placed them, natural and pleasing. But Dryden 
would have made Mercutio challenge Tybalt in hyperboles as fanciful as 
those in which he describes the chariot of Mab. Corneille would have repre- 
sented Antony as scolding and coaxing Cleopatra with all the measured 
rhetoric of a funeral oration. 

No writers have injured the comedy of England so deeply as Congreve and 
Sheridan. Both were men of splendid wit and polished taste. Unhappily 
they made all their characters in their own likeness. Their works bear the 
same relation to the legitimate drama which a transparency bears to a paint- 
ing : no delicate touches : no hues imperceptibly fading into each other : the 
whole is lighted up with an universal glare. Outlines and tints are forgotten in 
the common blaze which illuminates all. The flowers and fruits of the intellect 
abound ; but it is the abundance of a jungle, not of a garden— unwholesome, 
bewildering, unprofitable from its very plenty, rank from its very fragrance. 
Every fop, every boor, every valet is a man of wit. The very butts ^iid dupes. 
Tattle, Urkwould, Puff, Acres, outshine the whole Hotel de Rambouillet. 
To prove the whole system' of this school absurd it is only necessary to apply * 
the test which dissolved the enchanted Florimel — to place the true by the false 
Thalia, to contrast the most celebrated characters which have been drawn by 
the writers of whom we speak, with the Bastard in King John or the nurse 
in Romeo and Juliet. It was not surely from want of wit that Shakespeare 
adopted so different a manner. Benedick and Beatrice throw Mirabel and 
Millamant into the shade. All the good saymgs of the facetiows hours of 
Absolute and Surface might have been clipped from the single character of 
Falstaff without being missed. It would have been easy for that fertile mind 
to have given Bardolph and Shallow as much wit as Prince Hal, and to have 
made Dogbftrry and Verges retort on each other in sparkling epigrams. , But 
he knew, to use his own admirable language, that such indiscriminate pro- 
digality was '■^^rom the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and 
now, was, and is, to hold, as it were, the mirror up to Nature." 


This digression will enable our readers to understand what we mean when 
we say that, in the Mandragola, Machiavelli has proved that he completely 
understood the nature of the dramatic art and possessed talents which would 
have enabled him to excel in it. By the correct and vigorous delineation of 
human nature, it produces interest without a pleasing or skilful plot, and 
laughter without the least ambition of wit. The lover, not a very delicate or 
generous lover, and his adviser the parasite are drawn with spirit. The 
hypocritical confessor is an admirable portrait. He is, if we mistake not, the 
original of Father Dominic, the best comic character of Dryden. But old 
Nicias is the glory of the piece. We cannot call to mind anything that re- 
sembles him. The follies which Moliere ridicules are those of affectation, not 
those of fatuity. Coxcombs and pedants, not simpletons, are his game. 
Shakespeare has, indeed, a vast assortment of fools ; but the precise species of 
which we speak is, not, if we remember right, to be found there. Shallow is 
a fool. But his animal spirits supply, to a certain degree, the place of clever- 
ness. His talk is to that of Sir John what soda-water is to champagne. It 
has the effervescence, though not the body or the flavour. Slender and Sir 
Andrew Aguecheek are fools, troubled with an uneasy consciousness of their 
folly, which, in the latter, produces a most edifying meekness and docility, 
and in the former, awkwardness, obstinacy, and confusion. Cloten is aK 
arrogant fool, Osric a foppish fool, Ajax a savage fool ; but Nicias is^ as 
• Thersites says of Patroclus, a fool positive. His mind is occupied by no 
strong feeling ; it takes every character, and retains none ; its aspect is 
diversified, not by passions, but by faint and transitory semblances of passion, 
a mock joy, a mock fear, a mock love, a mock pride, which chase each other 
like shadows over its surface, and vanish as soon as they appear. He is just 
idiot enough to be an object, not of pity or horror, but of ridicule. He bears 
some resemblance to poor Calandrino, whose mishaps, as recounted by Boc- 
caccio, have made all Europe merry for more than four centuries. He, perhaps, 
resembles still more closely Simon de Villa, to whom Bruno and Buffalmacco 
promised the love of the Countess Civillari.* Nicias is, like Simon", of a 
learned profession, and the dignity with which he wears the doctoral fur 
renders his absurdities infinitely more grotesque. The old Tuscan is the very 
language for such a being. Its peculiar simplicity gives even to the most 
forcible reasoning and the most brilliant wit an infantine air, generally de- 
lightful, but to a foreign reader sometimes a little ludicrous. Heroes and 
statesmen seem to lisp when they use it. It becomes Nicias incomparably, 
and renders all his silliness infinitely more silly. 

We may add that the verses with which the Mandragola is interspersed 
appear to us to be the most spirited and correct of all that Machiavelli has 
written in metre. He seems to have entertained the same opinion ; for he 
has introduced some of them in other places. The contemporaries of the 
author were not blind to the merits of this striking piece. It was acted at 
Florence with the greatest success. Leo X. was among its admirers, and by 
his order it was represented at Rome.+ 

The Clizia is an imitation of the Casina of Plautus, which is itself an 
imitation of the lost KXrjpovfMivoL of Diphilus. Plautus was, unquestionably, 
one of the best Latin writers. His works are [copies ; but they have, in an 
extraordinary degree, the air of originals. We infinitely prefer the slovenly 

♦ Decameron, Giom. viii. Nov. 9. 

t Nothing can be more evident than that Paulus Jovius designates the Mandragola under 
the name of the Nicias. We should not have noticed what is so perfectly obvious, were it 
not that this natural and palpable misnomer has led the sagacious and industiious Bayle mto 
■ gross error. 


exuberance of his fancy and the clumsy vigour of his diction to the artfully 
disguised poverty and elegant languor of Terence. But the Casina is by no 
means one of his best plays ; nor is it one which offers great facilities to an 
imitator. The story is as alien from modern habits of life as the manner in 
which it is developed from the modern fashion of composition. The lover 
remains in the country, and the heroine is locked up in her chamber during 
the whole action, leaving their fate to be decided by a foolish father, a cunning 
mother, and two knavish servants. Machiavelli has executed his task with 
judgment and taste. He has accommodated the plot to a different state of 
society, and has very dexterously connected it with the history of his own 
times. The relation of the triclc put on the doting old lover is exquisitely 
humorous. It is far superior to the corresponding passage in the Latiu 
comedy, and scarcely yields to the account which Falstaff gives of his 

Two other comedies without titles, the one in prose, the other in verse, 
appear among the works of Machiavelli. The former is very short, lively 
enough, but of no gi'eat value. The latter we can scarcely believe to be 
genuine. Neither its merits nor its defects remind us of the reputed author. 
It was first printed in 1796, from a manuscript discovered in the celebrated 
library of the Strozzi. Its genuineness, if we have been rightly informed, is 
established solely by the comparison of hands. Our suspicions are strengthened 
by the circumstance that the same manuscript contained a description of the 
plague of 1527, which has also, in consequence, been added to the works of 
Machiavelli. Of this last composition, the strongest external evidence would 
scarcely induce us to believe him guilty. Nothing was ever written more 
detestable, in matter and manner. The narrations, the reflections, the jokes, 
the lamentations, are all the very worst of their respective kinds, at once trite 
and affected, — threadbare tinsel from the Rag Fairs and Monmouth Streets of 
literature. A foolish schoolboy might, perhaps, write it, and, after he had 
v/ritten it, think it much finer than the incomparable introduction of the 
Decameron. But that a shrewd statesman, v*?hose earliest works are charac- 
terized by manliness of thought and language, should, at nearly sixty years of 
age, descend to such puerility is utterly inconceivable. 

The little novel of Belphegor is pleasantly conceived and pleasantly told. 
But the extravagance of the satire, in some measure, injures its effect. 
Machiavelli was unhappily married ; and his wish to avenge his own cause 
and that of his brethren in masfortune carried him beyond even the licence of 
fiction. Jonson seems to have combined some hints taken from this tale, with 
others from Boccaccio, in the plot of The Devil is an Ass — a play which, 
though not the most highly finished of his compositions, is, perhaps, that 
which exhibits the strongest proofs of genius. 

The political correspondence of Machiavelli, first published in 1767, is un- 
questionably genuine and highly valuable. The unhappy circumstances in 
which his country was placed during the greater part of his public life gave 
extraordinary encouragement to diplomatic talent. From the moment that 
Charles VIII. descended from the Alps the whole character of Italian 
politics was changed. The governments of the Peninsula ceased to form an 
independent system. Drawn from their old orbit by the attraction of the 
larger bodies which now approached them, they became mere satellites of 
France and Spain. All their disputes, internal and external, were decided by 
foreign influence. The contests of opposite factions were carried on, not as 
formerly, in the Senate-house, or in the market-place, but in the antichambers 
of Louis and Ferdinand. Under these circumstances, the prosperity of the 
Italian States depended far more on the ability of their foreign agents than 


Dn the conduct of those who were intrusted with the domestic administration. 
The ambassador had to discharge functions far more delicate than transmitting 
orders of knighthood, introducing tourists, or presenting his brethren with the 
homage of his high consideration. He was an advocate to whose management 
the dearest interests of his chents were intrusted, a spy clothed with an inviol- 
able character. Instead of consulting the dignity of those whom he repre- 
sented by a reserved manner and an ambiguous style, he was to plunge into 
r.ll the intrigues of the court at which he resided, to discover and flatter every 
weakness of the prince who governed his employers, of the favourite who 
governed the prince, and of the lacquey who governed the favourite. He was 
•to compliment the mistress "and bribe the confessor, to panegyrize or suppli- 
cate, to laugh or weep, to accommodate himself to every caprice, to lull every 
suspicion, to treasure every hint, to be everything, to observe everything, to 
endure everything. High as the art of political intrigue had been carried in 
Italy, these were times which required it all. 

On these arduous errands a Machiavelli was frequently employed. He was 
sent to treat with the King of the Romans and with the Duke of Valentinois. 
He was twice ambassador at the Court of Rome, and thrice at that of France. 
In these missions, and in several others of inferior importance, he acquitted 
himself with great dexterity. His despatches form one of the most amusing 
and instructive collections extant. We meet with none of the mysterious 
jargon so common in modern state-papers, the flash language of political 
robbers and sharpers. The narratives are clear and agreeably written ; the 
remarks on men and things clever and judicious. The conversations are 
reported in a spirited and characteristic manner. We find ourselves intro- 
duced into the presence of the men who, during twenty eventful years, 
Ewayed the destinies of Europe. Their wit and their folly, their fretfulness 
and their merriment, are exposed to us. We are admitted to overhear their 
chat, and to watch their familiar gestures. It is interesting and curious to 
recognize, in circumstances which elude the notice of historians, the feeble 
violence and shallow cunning of Louis XII. ; the bustling insignificance 
of Maximilian, cursed with an impotent pruriency for renown ; rash, yet timid ; 
obstinate, yet fickle ; always in a hurry, yet always too late ; the fierce and 
haughty energy which gave dignity to the eccentricities of Julius ; the soft 
and graceful manners which masked the insatiable ambition and the implacable 
hatred of Borgia. 

We have mentioned Borgia. It is impossible not to pause for a moment on 
the name of a man in whom the political morality of Italy was so strongly 
personified, partially blended with the sterner lineaments of the Spanish cha- 
racter. On two important occasions Machiavelli was admitted to his society j 
once, at the moment when his splendid villainy achieved its most signal 
triumph, when he caught in one snare and crushed at one blow all his most 
formidable rivals ; and again when, exhausted by disease and overwhelmed 
by misfortunes which no human prudence could have averted, he was the 
prisoner of the deadliest enemy of his house. These interviews between the 
greatest speculative and the greatest practical statesman of the age are fully 
described in the correspondence, and form perhaps the most interesting part 
of it. From some passages in the Prince, and perhaps also from some indis- 
tinct traditions, several writers have supposed a connexion between those 
remarkable men much closer than ever existed. The envoy has even been 
accused of prompting the crimes of the artful and mejrciless tyrant. But from 
the official documents it is clear that their intercourse, though ostensibly 
amicable, was in reality hostile. It cannot be doubted, however, that the 
imagination of Machiavelli was strongly impressed and his speculations on 


government coloured by the observations which he made on the singular 
character and equally singular fortunes of a man who, under such disadvan- 
tages, had achieved such exploits ; who, when sensuality, varied through in- 
numerable forms, could no longer stimulate his sated mind, formed a mdre 
powerful and durable excitement in the intense thirst of empire and revenge ; 
who emerged from the sloth and luxury of the Roman purple, the first prince 
and general of the age ; who, trained in an unwarlike profession, formed a 
gallant army out of the dregs of an unwarlike people ; who, after acquiring 
sovereignty by destroying his enemies, acquired popularity by destroying his 
tools ; who had begun to employ for the most salutary ends the power which 
he had attained by the most atrocious means ; who tolerated within the sphere 
of his iron despotism no plunderer or oppressor but himself ; and who fell at 
last amidst the mingled curses and regrets of a people of whom his genius 
had been a wonder and might have been the salvation. Some of those crimes 
of Borgia which to us appear the most odious would not, from causes which 
we have already considered, have struck an Italian of the fifteenth century with 
equal horror. . Patriotic feeling also might induce Machiavelli to look with 
some indulgence and regret on the memory of the only leader who could have 
defended the independence of Italy against the confederate spoilers of 

On this subject Machiavelli felt most strongly. Indeed, the expulsion of the 
foreign tyrants and the restoration of that golden age which had preceded the 
irruption of Charles VIII. were projects which, at that time, fascinated 
all the master-spirits of Italy. The magnificent vision delighted the great 
but ill-regulated mind of Julius. It divided with manuscripts and sauces, 
painters and falcons, the attention of the frivolous Leo. It prompted the 
generous treason of Morone. It imparted a transient energy to the feeble 
mind and body of the last Sforza. It excited for one moment an honest ambi- 
tion in the false heart of Pescara. Ferocity and insolence were not among 
the vices of the national character. To the discriminating cruelties of poli- 
ticians, committed for great ends on select victims, the moral code of the 
Italians was too indulgent. But though they might have recourse to barbarity 
as an expedient, they did not require it as a stimulant. They turned with 
loathing from the atrocity of the strangers who seemed to love blood for its 
own sake, who, not content with subjugating, were impatient to destroy ; who 
found a fiendish pleasure in razing magnificent cities, cutting the throats of 
enemies who cried for quarter, or suffocating an unarmed people by thousands 
in the caverns to which they had fled for safety. Such were the scenes which 
daily excited the termor aa4 disgust of a people amongst whom, till lately, the 
worst that a soldier had to fear in a pitched battle was the loss of his horse, 
and the expense of his ransom. The swinish intemperance of Switzerland, 
the wolfish avarice of Spain, the gross licentiousness of the French, indulged 
in violation of hospitality, of decency, of love itself, the wanton inhumanity 
which was common to all the invaders, had rendered them objects of deadly 
hatred to the inhabitants of the Peninsula.* The wealth which had been ac- 
cumulated during centuries of prosperity and repose was rapidly melting 
away. The intellectual superiority of the oppressed people only rendered 
them more keenly sensible of their political degradation. Literature and taste, 
indeed, still disguised with a flush of hectic loveliness and brilliancy the 
ravages of £«.n incurable decay. The iron had not yet entered into the souL 

♦ The opening stanzas of the Fourteenth Canto of the Orlando Furioso give a frightful 
picture of the state of Italy in those times._ Yet, strange to say, Ariosto is speaking of tbf 
conduct of those who caUed theinselves allies. 


The time was not yet come when eloquence was to be gagged, and reason to 
be hoodwinked — when the harp of the poet was to be hung on the willows 
of, Amo, and the right hand of the painter to forget its cunning. Yet a dis- 
cerning eye might even then have seen that genius and learning would not 
long survive the state of things from which they had sprung — that the great 
men whose talents gave lustre to that melancholy period had been formed 
under the influence of happier days, and would leave no successors behind 
them. The times which shine with the greatest splendour in literary history 
are not always those to which the human mind is most indebted. Of this we 
may be convinced by comparing the generation which follows them with that 
which preceded them. The first fruits which are reaped under a bad system often 
spring from seed sown under a good one. Thus it was, in some measure, 
with the Augustan age. Thus it was with the age of Raphael and Ariosto, 
of Aldus and Vida. 

Machiavelli deeply regretted the misfortunes of his country, and clearly 
discerned the cause and the remedy. It was the military system of the Italian 
people which had extinguished their valour and discipline, and rendered their 
ivealth an easy prey to every foreign plunderer. The secretary projected a 
scheme, alike honourable to his heart and to his intellect, for abolishing the 
use of mercenary troops, and organizing a national militia. 

The exertions which he made to effect this great object ought alone to 
rescue his name from obloquy. Though his situation and his habits were 
pacific, he studied with intense assiduity the theory of war. He made himself 
master of all its details. The Florentine government entered into his views. 
A coimcil of war was appointed. Levies were decreed. The indefatigable 
minister flew from place to place in order to superintend the execution of his 
design. The times were, in some respects, favourable to the experiment. 
The system of military tactics had undergone a great revolution. The cavalry 
was no longer considered as forming the strength of an army. The hours 
which a citizen could spare from his ordinary employments, though by no 
means sufficient to familiarize him with the exercise of a man-at-arms, might 
render him an useful foot-soldier. The dread of a foreign yoke, of plunder, 
massacre, and conflagration might have conquered that repugnance to militai-y 
pursuits which both the industry and the idleness of great towns commonly 
generate. For a time the scheme promised well. The new troops acquitted 
themselves respectably in the field, Machiavelli looked with parental 
rapture on the success of his plan ; and began to hope that the arms of Italy 
might once more be formidable to the barbarians of the Tagus and the Rhine, 
But the tide of misfortune came on before the barriers which should have 
withstood it were prepared. For a time, indeed, Florence might be con- 
sidered as peculiarly fortunate. Famine and sword and pestilence had 
devastated the fertile plains and stately cities of the Po. All the curses 
denounced of old against Tyre seemed to have fallen on Venice. Her 
merchants already stood afar oiT, lamenting for their great city. The time 
seemed near when the sea-weed should overgrow her silent Rialto, and the 
fisherman wash his nets in her deserted arsenal. . Naples had been four times 
conquered and reconquered by tyrants equally indifferent to its welfare and 
equally greedy for its spoils. Florence, as yet, had only to endure degrada- 
tion and extortion, to submit to the mandates of foreign powers, to buy over 
and over again, at an enormous price, what was already justly her own, to 
return thanks for being wronged, and to ask pardon for being in the right. 
She was at length deprived of the blessings even of this infamous and servile 
repose. Her military and political institutions were swept away together. 
The Medici returned, in the train of foreign invaders, from their long € jfije. 


The policy of Machiavelli was abandoned; and his public services were 
requited with poverty, imprisonment, and torture. 

The fallen statesman still clung to his project with unabated ardour. With 
the view of vindicating it from some popular objections, and of refuting some 
prevailing errors on the subject of military science, he wrote his seven books 
on the Art of War. This excellent work is in the form of a dialogue. The 
opinions of the writer are put into the mouth of Fabrizio Colonna, a powerful 
nobleman of the Ecclesiastical State, and an officer of distinguished merit in 
the service of the King of Spain. He visits Florence on his way from Lom- 
bardy to his own domains. Pie is invited to meet some friends at the house 
of Cosimo Rucellai, an amiable and accomplished young man, whose early 
death Machiavelli feelingly deplores. After partaking of an elegant enter- 
tainment, they retn-e from the heat into the most shady recesses of the garden. 
Fabrizio is struck by the sight of some uncommon plants. His host informs 
him that, though rare in modern days, they are frequently mentioned by the 
classical authors, and that his grandfather, like many other Italians, amused 
himself with practising the ancient methods of gardening. Fabrizio expresses 
his regret that those who, in later times, affected the manners of the old 
Romans, should select for imitation their most trifling pursuits. This leads 
to a conversation on the decline of military discipline, and on the best means 
of restoring it. The institution of the Florentine militia is ably defended ; 
and several improvements are suggested in the details. 

The Swiss and the Spaniards were, at that time, regarded as the best 
soldiers in Europe. The Swiss battalion consisted of pikemen, and bore a 
close resemblance to the Greek phalanx. The Spaniards, like the soldiers of 
Rome, were armed with the sword and the shield. The victories of Flaminius 
and iEmilius over the Macedonian kings seem to prove the superiority of the 
weapons used by the legions. The same experiment had been recently tried 
v/ith the same result 4t the battle of Ravenna, one of those tremendous days 
into which human folly and wickedness compress the whole devastation of a 
femine or a plague. In that memorable conflict the infantry of Arragon, the 
old companions of Gonsalvo, deserted by all their allies, hewed a passage 
through the thickest of the imperial pikes, and effected an unbroken retreat, in 
the face of the gend-armerie of De Foix and the renowned artillery of Este. 
Fabrizio, or rather Machiavelli, proposes to combine the two systems, to arm 
the foremost lines with the pike, for the purpose of repulsing cavalry, and 
those in the rearjwith the sword, as being a weapon better adapted for every pur- 
pose. Throughout the work the author expresses the highest admiration of the 
military science of the ancient Romans, and the greatest contempt for the* 
maxims which had been in vogue amongst the Italian commanders of the pre- 
ceding generation. He prefers infantry to cavalry, and fortified camps to 
fortified towns. He is inclined to substitute rapid movements and decisive 
engagements for the languid and dilatory operations of his countrymen. He 
attaches very little importance to the invention of gunpowder. Indeed, he 
seems to think that it ought scarcely to produce any change in the mode of 
arming or of disposing troops. The general testimony of historians, it must 
be allowed, seems to prove that the ill-constructed and ill-served artillery of 
those times, though useful in a siege, was of little value on the field of battle. 

Of the tactics of Machiavelli we will not venture to give an opinion : but 
we are certain that his book is most able and interesting. As a commentary 
on the history of his limes, it is invaluable. The ingenuity, the grace, and 
the perspicuity of the style, and the eloquence and animation of particular pas'* 
»ages must give pleasure ^ven to readers who take no interest in the subject. 

Tlw Prince and the Discourses 00 Livy were written after the (all * 


of the Republican Government. The former was dedicated to the young 
Lorenzo de Medici. This circumstance seems to have disgusted the contem- 
poraries of the writer far more than the doctrines which have rendered the 
name of the work odious in later times. It was considered as an indication of 
poHtical apostasy. The fact, however, seems to have been that Machiavelli, 
despairing of the liberty of Florence, was inclined to support any government 
which might preserve her independence. The interval which separated a 
■democracy and a despotism, Soderini and Lorenzo, seemed to vanish when 
compared with the difference between the former and the present state of 
Italy, between the security, the opulence, and the repose which it had en- 
joyed under its native rulers, and the misery in which it had been plunged 
since the fatal year in which the first foreign tyrant had descended from the 
Alps. The noble and pathetic exhortation with which the Prince concludes 
shows how strongly the writer felt upon the subject. 

The Prince traces the progress of an ambitious man, the Discourses the 
progress of an ambitious people. The same principles on which, in the for- 
mer work, the elevation of an individual is explained are applied, in the lat- 
ter, to the longer duration and more complex interests of a society. To a 
modem statesman the form of the Discourses may appear to be puerile. In 
truth, Livy is not a historian on whom much reliance can be placed, even in 
cases where he must have possessed considerable means of information. And 
his first Decade, to which Machiavelli has confined himself, is scarcely en* 
titled to more credit than our chronicle of British kings who reigned before 
the Roman invasion. But his commentator is indebted to him for little more 
than a few texts which he might as easily have extracted from the Vulgate or 
the Decameron. The whole train of thought is original. 

On the peculiar immorality which has rendered the Prince unpopular, and 
which is almost equally discernible in the Discourses, we have already given 
our opinion at length. We have attempted to show that it belonged rather 
to the age than to the man, that it was a partial taint, and by no means im- 
plied general depravity. We cannot, however, deny that it is a great blemish 
and that it considerably diminishes the pleasure which, in other respects, 
those works must afford to every intelligent mind. 

It is, indeed, impossible to conceive a more healthful and vigorous consti- 
tution of the understanding than that which these works indicate. The 
qualities of the active and the contemplative statesman appear to have been 
blended, in the mind of the writer, into a rare and exquisite harmony. His 
skill in the details of business had not been acquired at the expense of his 
general powers. It had not rendered his mind less comprehensive ; but it 
had served to correct h?.s speculations, and to impart to them that vivid and 
practical character which so widely distinguishes them from the vague theories 
of most political philosophers. 

Every man who has seen the world knows that nothing is so useless as a 
general maxim. If it be very moral and very true, it may serve for a copy to 
a chavity-boy. If, like those of Rochefoucault, it be sparkling and whimsical, 
it may make an excellent motto for an essay. But few, indeed, of the many 
wise apophthegms which have been uttered from the time of the Seven Sages 
of Greece to that of Poor Richard have prevented a single foolish action. 
We give the highest and the most peculiar praise to the precepts of 
Machiavelli, when we say that they may frequently be of real use in regulating^ 
conduct — not so much because they are more just, or more profound, than 
those which might be culled from other authors as because they can be more 
readily applied to the problems of real life. 

There are errpjrs in thege works, But they are errors which » writer, 


Situated like Machiavelli, could scarcely avoid. They arise, for the most 
part, from a single defect which appears to us to pervade his whole system. 
In his political scheme the means had been more deeply considered than the 
ends. The great principle, that societies and laws exist only for the purpose 
of increasing the sum of private happiness, is not recognized with sufficient 
clearness. The good of the body, distinct from the good of the members, and 
sometimes hardly compatible with it, seems to be the object which he proposes 
to himself. Of all political fallacies, this has had the widest and the most 
mischievous operation. The state of society in the little commonwealths of 
Greece, the close connection and mutual dependence of the citizens, and the 
severity of the laws of war tended to encourage an opinion which, under such 
circumstances, could hardly be called erroneous. The interests of every in- 
dividual were inseparably bound up with those of the State. An invasion 
destroyed his corn-fields and vineyards, drove him from his home, and com- 
pelled him to eijcounter all the hardships of a military life. A peace restored 
him to security and comfort. A victory doubled the number of his slaves. A 
defeat, perhaps, tnade him a slave himself When Pericles, in the Peloponne- 
sian war, told the Athenians that, if their country triumphed, their private 
losses would speedily be repaired; but that, if thc'r arms failed of success, 
ev^ry individual amongst them would probably be ruined,* he spoke no 
more than the truth. He spoke to men whom the tribute of vanquished 
cities supplied with food and clothing, vA'Ca. the luxury of the bath and the 
amusements of the theatre, on whom the greatness of their country conferred 
rank, fand before whom the members of less prosperous communities 
trembled ; and to men who, in case of a change in the public fortunes, 
would, at least, be deprived of every comfort and every distinction which 
they enjoyed. To be butchered on the smoking ruins of their city, to be 
dragged in chains to a slave-mark ^tt, to see one child torn from them to dig^ 
in the quarries of Sicily, and another to guard the harems of Persepolis— ^ 
those were the frequent and probable consequences of national calamities. 
Hence, among the Greeks patriotism became a governing principle, or rather 
an ungovernable passion. Both their legislators and their philosophers took it 
for-'granted that, in providing for the strength and greatness of the state, 
they sufficiently provided for the happiness of the people. The writers of the 
Roman empire lived under despots into whose dominion a hundred nations 
were melted down, and whose gardens would have covered the little common- 
wealths of Phlius and Platsea, Yet they continued to employ the same lan- 
guage, and to cant about the duty of sacrificing everything to a country to 
which they owed nothing. 

Causes similar to those which had influenced the disposition of the Greeks 
operated powerfully on the less vigorous and daring character of the Italians. 
They, too, were members of small communities. Every man was deeply in- 
terested in the welfare of the society to which he belonged — a partaker in 
its wealth and its poverty, in its glory and its shame. In the age of 
Machiavelli this waa peculiarly the case. Public events had produced an 
immense sum of money to private citizens. The Northern invaders had 
brought want to their boards, infamy to their beds, fire to their roofs, and the 
knife to their throats. It was natural that a man who lived in times like 
these should overrate the importance of those measures by which a nation is 
rendered formidable to its neighbours, and undervalue those which make it 
prosperous within itself. 

Nothing is more remarkable in the political treatises of Machiavelli than 

• Thucydidcs, H. 6a. 


Hie fairness of mind which they indicate. It appears where the author is in 
the wrong almost as strongly as where he is in the right. He never advances 
a false opinion because it is new or splendid, because he can clothe it in a 
happy phrase, or defend it by an ingenious sophism. His errors are at once 
explained by a reference to the circumstances in which he was placed. They 
evidently were not sought out ; they lay in his way, and could scarcely be 
avoided. Such mistakes must necessarily be committed by early speculators 
in every science. 

In this respect it is amusing to compare the Prince and the Discourses with 
the Spirit of Laws. Montesquieu enjoys, perhaps, a wider celebrity than any 
political writer of modern Europe. Something he doubtless owes to his merit, 
but much more to his fortune. He had the good luck of a valentine. He 
caught the eye of the 'French nation at the moment when it was waking from 
the long sleep of political and religious bigotry ; and, in consequence, he be- 
came a favourite. The English, at that time, considered a Frenchman who 
talked about constitutional checks and fundamental laws as a prodigy not less 
astonishing than the learned pig or the musical infant. Specious but shallow, 
studious of effect, indifferent to truth, eager to build a system, but careless of 
collecting those materials out of which alone a sound and durable system can 
be built, he constructed theories as rapidly and as slightly as card houses, no 
sooner projected than completed, no sooner completed than blown away, no 
sooner blown away than forgotten. Machiavelli errs only because his experi- 
ence, acquired in a very peculiar state of society, could not always enable him 
to calculate the effect of institutions differing from those of which he had 
observed the operation. Montesquieu errs because he has a fine thing to say, 
and is resolved to say it. If the phenomena which lie before him will not 
suit his purpose, all history must be ransacked. If nothing established by 
authentic testimony can be raked or chipped to suit his Procrustean hypothesis, 
he puts up with some monstrous fable about Siam, or Bantam, or Japan, told 
by writers compared with whom Lucian and Gulliver were veracious— liars 
by a double right, as travellers and as Jesuits 

Propriety of thought and propriety of diction are commonly fou-nd together. 
Obscurity and affectation are the two greatest faults of style. Obscurity of 
expression generally springs from confusion of ideas ; and the same wish to 
dazzle at any cost which produces affectation in the manner of a writer is 
likely to produce sophistry in his reasonings. The judicious and candid mind 
of Machiavelli shows itself in his luminous, manly, and polished language. 
The style of Montesquieu, on the other hand, indicates in every page a lively 
and ingenious, but an unsound mind. Every trick of expression, from the 
mysterious conciseness of an oracle to the flippancy of a Parisian coxcomb, is 
employed to disguise the fallacy of some positions and the triteness of others. 
Absurdities are brightened into epigrams ; truisms are darkened into enigmas. 
It is with difficulty that the strongest eye can sustain the glare with which 
some parts are illuminated, or penetrate the shade in which others are con- 

The political works of Machiavelli derive a peculiar interest from th*j 
mournful earnestness which he manifests whenever he touches on topics con- 
nected with the calamities of his native land. It is difficult to conceive any 
situation more painful than that of a great man, condemned to watch the 
lingering agony of an exhausted country, to tend it during the alternate fits of 
stupefaction and raving which precede its dissolution, to see the symptoms of 
vitality disappear one by one, till nothing is left but coldness, darkness, and 
corruption. To this joyless and thankless duty was Machiavelli called. In 
the energetic language of the prophet, he was ** mad for the sight of his eyes 


which he saw " — disunion in the council, effeminacy in the camp, liberty ex- 
tinguished, commerce decaying, national honour sullied, an enlightened and 
flourishing people given over to the ferocity of ignorant savages. Though his 
opinions had not escaped the contagion of that political immorality which was 
common among his countrymen, his natural disposition seems to have been 
rather stera and impetuous than pliant and artful. When the misery and 
degradation of Florence and the foul outrage which he had himself sustained 
raised his mind, the smooth craft of his profession and his nation 13 exchanged 
for the honest bitterness of scorn and anger. He speaks like one sick of the 
calamitous times and abject people among whom his lot is cast. He pines, 
for the strength and glory of ancient Rome, for the fasces of Brutus and the 
sword of Scipio, the gravity of the curule chair, and the bloody pomp of the 
triumphal sacrifice. He seems to be transported back to the days when eight 
hundred thousand Italian warriors sprung to arms at the rumour of a Gallic 
invasion. He breathes all the spirit of those intrepid and haughty patricians, 
who forgot the dearest ties of nature in the claims of public duty, who looked 
with disdain on the elephants and on the gold of Pyrrhus, and listened with 
unaltered composure to the tremendous tidings of Cannse. Like an ancient 
temple deformed by the barbarous architecture of a later age, his character ac- 
quires an interest from the very circumstances which debase it. The original 
proportions are rendered more striking by the contrast which they present to 
the mean and incongruous additions. 

The influence of the sentiments which we have described was not apparent 
in his writings alone. His enthusiasm, barred from the career which it would 
have selected for itself, seems to have found a vent in desperate levity. He 
enjoyed a vindictive pleasure in outraging the opinions of a society which he 
despised. He became careless of those decencies which were expected from 
a man so highly distinguished in the literary and political world. The 
sarcastic bitterness of his conversation disgusted those who were more 
inclined to accuse his licentiousness than their own degeneracy, and who were 
unable to conceive the strength of those emotions which are concealed by the 
jests of the wretched, and by the follies of the wise. 

The historical works of Machiavelli still remain to be considered. The 
life of Castruccio Castracani will occupy us for a very short time, and would 
scarcely have demanded our notice had it not attracted a much greater share 
of public attention than it deserves. Few books, indeed, could be more 
interesting than a careful and judicious account, from such a pen, of the 
illustrious Prince of Lucca, the most eminent of those Italian chiefs who, 
like Pisistratus and Gelon, acquired a power felt ratlier than seen, and 
resting, not on law or on prescription, but on the public favour and on their 
great personal qualities. Such a work would exhibit to us the real nature of 
that species of sovereignty, so singular and so often misunderstood, which the 
Greeks denominated tyranny^ and which, modified in some degree by the 
feudal system, reappeared in the commonwealths of Lombardy and Tuscany. 
But this httle composition of Machiavelli is in no sense a history. It has no 
pretensions to fidelity. It is a trifle, and not a very successful trifle. It is 
scarcely more authentic than the novel of Belphegor, and is very much duller. 

The last great work of this illustrious man was the history of his native 
city. It was written by the command of the pope, who, as chief of the 
house of Medici, was at that time sovereign of Florence. The characters of 
Cosmo, of Piero, and of Lorenzo are, however, treated with a freedom and 
impartiality equally honourable to the writer and to the patron. The 
miseries and humiliations of dependence, the bread which is more bitter 
than every other food, the stairs which are more painfuA than every other 


ascent,* had not broken the spirit of Machiavelli. The most cornipting post 
in a corrupting profession had not depraved the generous heart of Clement. 

The history does not appear to be the fruit of much industry or research. 
It is unquestionably inaccurate. But it is elegant, lively, and picturesque 
beyond any other in the Italian language. The reader, we believe, carries 
away from it a more vivid and a more faithful impression of the national 
character and manners than from more correct accounts.' The truth is, 
that the book belongs rather to ancient than to modern literature. It is in 
the style, not of Davila and Clarendon, but of Herodotus and Tacitus : and 
the classical histories may almost be called romances founded in fact. The 
relation is, no doubt, in all its principal points, strictly true. But the 
numerous little incidents which heighten the interest, the words, the gestures, 
the looks, are evidently furnished by the imagination of the author. The 
fashion of later times is different. A more exact narrative is given by the 
writer. It may be doubted whether more exact notions are conveyed to the 
reader. The best portraits are those in which there is a slight mixture of 
caricature ; and we are not aware that the best histories are not those in 
which a little of the exaggeration of fictitious narrative is judiciously employed. 
Something is lost in accuracy ; but much is gained in effect. The fainter 
lines are neglected ; but the great characteristic features are imprinted on the 
mind for ever. 

The history terminates with the death of Lorenzo de Medici. Machiavelli 
"had, it seems, intended to continue it to a later period. But his death pre- 
vented the execution of his design ; and the melancholy task of recording tlie 
desolation and shame of Italy devolved on Guicciardini. 

Machiavelli lived long enough to see the commencement of the last struggle 
for Florentine liberty. Soon after his death monarchy was finally established 
— not such a monarchy as that of which Cosmo had laid the foundations deep 
in the constitution and feelings of his countrymen, and which Lorenzo had 
embellished with the trophies of every science and every art ; but a loathsome 
tyranny, proud and mean, cruel and feeble, bigoted and lascivious. The 
character of Machiavelli was hateful to the new masters of Italy ; and those 
parts of his theory which were in strict accordance with their own daily 
practice afforded a pretext for blackening his memory. His works were 
misrepresented by the learned, misconstrued by the ignorant, censured by the 
Church, abused, with all the rancour of simulated virtue, by the minions of a 
base despotism and the priests of a baser superstition. The name of the 
man whose genius had illuminated all the dark places of policy, and to whose 
patriotic wisdom an oppressed people had owed their last chance of eman- 
cipation and revenge, passed into a proverb of infamy. For more than two 
hundred years his bones lay undistinguished. At length, an English noble- 
man paid the last honours to the greatest statesman of Florence. In the 
church of Santa Croce a monument was erected to his memory, which is 
contemplated with reverence by all who can distinguish the virtues of a great 
mind through the corruptions of a degenerate age; and which will be 
approached with still deeper homage when the object to which his public 
life was devoted shall be attained — rnioxi the foreign yoke shall be broken, 
when a second Proccita shall avenge tbs wrongs of Naples, when a happiei 
Rienzi shall restore the good estate of Rome, when the streets of Florence 
knd Bologna shall again resound with their ancient war cry — Popolo; popolo^ 
muoiano i tirannil 

* Pante Paradiso, canto xvii. 



The Constitutional History of England, from the Accession of Henry VII. to the Deatli of 
George II. By Henry Hallam. In 2 vols. 1827. 

History, at least in its state of imaginary perfection, is a compound of poetry 
and philosophy. It impresses general truths on the mind by a vivid repre- 
sentation of particular characters and incidents. But, in fact, the two hos- 
tile elements of which it consists have never been known to form a perfect 
amalgamation ; and, at length, in our own time, they have been completely 
and professedly separated. Good histories, in the proper sense of the word, 
we have not. But we have good historical romances, and good historical 
essays. The imagination and the reason, if we may use a legal metaphor, 
have made partition of a province of literature of which they were formerly 
seised per my et per tout ; and now they hold their respective portions in 
severalty, instead of holding the whole in common. 

To make the past present, to bring the distant near — to place us in the 
society of a great man or on the eminence which overlooks the field of a 
mighty battle, to invest with the reality of human flesh and blood beings 
whom we are too much inclined to consider as personified qualities in an 
allegory, to call up our ancestors before us with all their peculiarities of lan- 
guage, manners, and garb, to show us over their houses, to seat us at their 
tables, to rummage their old-fashioned wardrobes, to explain the uses of their 
ponderous furniture, — these parts of the duty which properly belongs to the 
historian have b^en appropriated by the historical novelist. On the other 
hand, to extract tViC philosophy of history, to direct our judgment of events 
and men, to trace the connection of causes and effects, and to draw from the 
occurrences of former times general lessons of moral and political wisdom has 
become the business of a distinct class of writers. 

Of the two kinds of composition into which history has been thus divided, 
the one may be compared to a map, the other to a painted landscape. The 
picture, though it places the object before us, does not enable us to ascertain 
with accuracy the form and dimensions of its component parts, the distances, 
and the angles. The map is not a work of imitative art. It presents no scene 
to the imagination ; but it gives us exact information as to the bearings of the 
various points, and is a more useful companion to the traveller or the generai 
than the painting could be, though it were the grandest that ever Rosa 
peopled with outlaws, or the sweetest over which Claude ever poured the 
mellow effulgence of a setting sun. 

It is remarkable that the practice of separating the two ingredients of which 
history is composed has become prevalent on the Continent as well as in this 
country. Italy has already produced a historical novel of high merit and of 
still higher promise. In France the practice has been carried to a length 
somewhat whimsical. M. Sismondi publishes a grave and stately history, ^ 
very valuable, and a little tedious. He then sends forth as a companion to it 
a novel, in which he attempts to give a lively representation of characters and 
manners. This course, as it seems to us, has all the disadvantages of a divi- 
sion of labour, and none of its advantages. We understand the expediency 
of keeping the functions of cook and coachman distinct — the dinner will h& 
better dressed, and the horses better managed. But where the two situations 
are united, as in the Maitre Jacques of Moliere, we do not see that the^matter 
" "- " ■ " ' M 

• Edinburgh Review, Vol, jplvjii. September, 1838, p. 96. 


is much mended by the solemn form with which the pluralist passes from one 
of his employments to the other. 

We ma)iage these things better in England. Sir Walter Scott gives us a 
novel ; Mr. Haliam a critical and argumentative history. Both are occupied 
v/ith the same matter. But the former looks at it with the eye of a sculptor. 
His intention is to give an express and lively image of its external form. The 
latter is an anatomist. His task is to dissect the subject to its inmost recesses 
and to lay bare before us all the springs of motion and all the causes of decay. 

Mr. Haliam is, on the whole, far better qualified than any other writer of 
our time for the office which he has undertaken. ' He has great industry and 
great acuteness. His knowledge is extensive, various, and profound. Hia 
mind is equally distinguished by the amplitude of its grasp and by the deli- 
cacy of its tact. His speculations have none of that vagueness which is the 
common fault of political philosophy. On the contrary, they are strikingly 
practical. They teach us not only the general rule, but the mode of applying 
it to solve particular «:ases. In this respect they often remind us of the dis- 
courses of Machiavelli, 

The style is sometimes harsh, and sometimes obscure. We have also here 
and there remarked a little of that unpleasant trick which Gibbon brought 
into fashion, the trick, we mean, of narrating by implication and allusion. 
Mr. Haliam, however, has an excuse which Gibbon had not. His work is 
designed for readers who are already acquainted with the ordinary books on 
English history, and who can, therefore, unriddle these little enigmas without 
difhculty. The manner of the book is, on the whole, not unworthy of the 
matter. The language, even when most faulty, is weighty and massive, 
and indicates strong sense in every line. It often rises to an eloquence, not 
florid or impassioned, but Ingh, grave, and sober ; such as would become 
a state paper, or a judgment delivered by a great magistrate, a Somers, or a 

In this respect the character of Mr. Hallam's mind corresponds strikingly 
with that of his style. His work is eminently judicial. Its whole spirit is that 
of the bench, not that of the bar. He sums up with a calm, steady impartiality, 
turning neither to the right nor to the left, glossing over nothing, exaggerating 
nothing, while the advocates on both sides are alternately biting their lips to 
hear their conflicting misstatements and sophisms exposed. On a general 
survey, we do not scruple to pronounce the Constitutional History the most 
impartial book that we ever read. We think it the more incumbent on us to 
bear this testimony strongly at first setting out, because, in the course of our 
remarks, we shall think it right to dwell principally on those parts of it from 
which we dissent. 

There is one peculiarity about Mr. Haliam which, while it adds to the value 
of his writings, will, we fear, take away something from their popularity. 
He is less of a worshipper than any historian whom we can call to mind. 
Every political sect has its esoteric and its exoteric school ; its abstract doctrines 
for the initiated ; its visible symbols, its imposing forms, it mythological fables, 
for the vulgar. It assists the devotion of those who are unable to raise them- 
selves to the contemplation of pure truths by all the devices of pagan or papal 
superstition. It has its altars and its deified heroes, its relics and pilgrimages, 
its canonized martyrs and confessors, its festivals and its legendary miracles. 
Our pious ancestors, we are told, deserted the high altar of Canterbury, to 
lay a^ their oblations on the shrine of St. Thomas. In the same manner the 
ijieat and comfortable doctrines of the Tory creed, those particularly which 
x'elate to restrictions on worship and on trade, are adored by squires and 
rectors in Pitt Clubs, under the nai?ie of z, tpinister who was w bad a repr^ 


srentative of the system which has been christened after him as Becket of the 
spirit of the Gospel. And, on the other hand, the cause for which Hampden 
bled on the field and Sydney on the scaffold is enthusiastically toasted by many 
an honest radical who would be puzzled to explain the difference between 
Ship-money and the Habeas Corpus Act. It may be added that, as in 
religion, so in politics, few even of those who are enlightened enough to com 
prehend the meaning latent under the emblems of their faith can resist the 
contagion of the popular superstition. Often, when they flatter themselves 
that they arc merely feigning a compliance with the prejudices of the vulgar, 
they are themselves under the influence of those very prejudices. It probaby 
was not altogether on grounds of expediency that Socrates taught his followers 
to honour the gods whom the state honoured, and bequeathed a cock to Escu- 
lapius with his dying breath. So there is often a portion of willing credulity 
and enthusiasm in the veneration which the most discerning men pay to their 
political idols. From the very nature of man it must be so. The faculty by 
which we inseparably associate ideas which have often been presented to us in 
conjunction is not under the absolute control of the will. It may be quickened 
into morbid activity. It may be reasoned into sluggishness. But in a certain 
degree it will always exist. The almost absolute mastery which Mr. Hallam 
has obtained over feelings of this class is perfectly astonishing to us ; and will, 
we believe, be not only astonishing but offensive to many of his readers. It 
must particularly disgust those people who, in their speculations on politics, are 
not reasoners but fanciers ; whose opinions, even when sincere, are not pro- 
duced, according to the law of intellectual births, by induction or inference, 
but are equivocally generated by the heat of fervid tempers out of the over- 
flowing of tumid imaginations. A man of this class is always in extremes. He 
cannot be a friend to liberty without calling for a community of goods, or a 
friend to order without taking under his protection the foulest excesses of 
tyranny. His admiration oscillates between the most worthless of rebels and 
the most worthless of oppressors, between Marten, the scandal of the High 
Court of Justice, and Laud, the scandal of the Star Chamber. He can forgive 
anything but temperance and impartiality. He has a certain sympathy with 
the violence of his opponents, as well as with that of his associates. In every 
furious partisan he sees either his present self or his former self, the pensioner 
that is or the Jacobin that has been. But he is unable to comprehend a writer 
who, steadily attached to principles, is indifferent about names and badges, — 
and who judges of characters with equable severity, not altogether untinctured 
with cynicism, but free from the slightest touch of passion, party spirit, or 

We should probably like Mr. Hallam's book more if, instead of pointing out 
with strict fidelity the bright points and the dark spots of both parties, he had 
exerted himself to whitewash the one and to blacken the other. But we should 
certainly prize it'far less. Eulogy and invective may be had for the asking. 
But for cold, rigid justice — the one weight and the one measure — we know 
not where else we can look. 

No portion of our annals has been more perplexed and misrepresented by 
writers of different parties than the history of the Reformation. In this laby- 
rinth of falsehood and sophistry the guidance of Mr. Hallam is peculiarly 
valuable. It is impossible not to admire the even-handed justice with which 
he deals out castigation to right and left on the rival persecutors. 

It is vehemently maintained by some writers of the present day that the 
government of Elizabeth persecuted neither Papists nor Puritans as such ; and 
occasionally that the severe measures which it adopted were dictated, not by 
religious intolerance, but by political necessity. Even the excellent account of 


those times which Mr. Hallam has given, has not altogether imposed silence 
on the authors of this fallacy. The title of the queen, they say, was annulled 
by the pope ; her throne was given to another ; her subjects were incited to 
rebellion ; her Ufe was menaced ; every Catholic was bound in conscience to 
be a traitor ; it was, therefore, against traitors, not against Catholics, that the 
penal laws were enacted. 

That our readers may be the better able to appreciate the merits of this 
defence, we will state, as concisely as possible, the substance of some of these 

As soon as Elizabeth ascended the throne, and before the least hostility to 
her government had been shown by the Catholic population, an act passed 
prohibiting the celebration of the rites of the Romish Church, on pain of for- 
feiture for the first offence, of a year's imprisonment for the second, and of 
perpetual imprisonment for the third. 

A law was next made in 1562, enacting that &11 who had ever graduated at 
the Universities, or received holy orders, all lawyers, and all magistrates, should 
take the oath of supremacy when tendered to them, on pain of forfeiture and 
imprisonment during the royal pleasure. After the lapse of three months it 
might again be tendered to them ; and if it were again refused, the recusant 
M^as guilty of high treason ! A prospective law, however severe, framed to 
exclude Catholics from the liberal professions, would have been mercy itself 
'compared with this odious act. It is a retrospective statute ; it is a retro- 
spective penal statute ; it is a retrospective penal statute against a large class. 
We will not positively affirm that a law of this description must always, and 
under all circumstances, be unjustifiable. But the presumption against it is 
most violent ; nor do we remember any crisis, either in our own history or in 
the history of any other country, which would have rendered such a provision 
necessary. In the present case, what circumstances called for extraordinary 
rigour ? There might be disaffection among the Catholics. The prohibition 
of their worship would naturally produce it. But it is from their situation, not 
from their conduct ; from the wrongs which they had suffered, not from those 
which they had committed, that the existence of discontent among them must be 
inferred. There were libels, no doubt, and prophecies, and rumours, and 
suspicions, — strange grounds for a law inflicting capital penalties, ex post facto^ 
on a large body of men. 

Eight years later the bull of Pius deposing Elizabeth produced a third law. 
This law, to which alone, as we conceive, the defence now under our con- 
sideration can apply, provides that, if any Catholic shall convert a Protestant 
to the Romish Church, they shall both suffer death as for high treason. 

We believe that we might safely content ourselves with stating the fact and 
leaving it to the judgment of every plain Englishman. Recent controversies 
have, however, given so much importance to this subject that we will offer a 
few remarks on it. 

In the first place, the arguments which are urged in favour of Elizabeth 
apply with much greater force to the case of her sister Mary. The Catholiss did 
not, at the time of Elizabeth's accession, rise in arras to seat a pretender on 
her throne. But before Mary had given, or could give, provocation, the most 
distinguished Protestants attempted to set aside her rights in favour of the Lady 
Jane. That attempt, and the subsequent insurrection of Wyatt, furnished at 
least as good a plea for the burning of Protestants as the conspiracies against 
Elizabeth furnished for the hanging and embowelling of Papists. 

The fact is that both pleas are worthless alike. If such arguments are to pass 
current, it will be easy to prove that there was never such a thing as religious 
persecution since the creation. For there never was a religious persecution 


in which some odious crime was not, justly or unjustly, said to be obviously 
deducible from the doctrines of the persecuted party. We might say that 
the Caesars did not persecute the Christians ; that they only punished men 
who were charged, rightly or wrongly, with burning Rome, and with commit- 
ting the foulest abominations in their assemblies ; and that the refusal to throw 
frankincense on the altar of Jupiter was not the crime, but only evidence of the 
crime. We might say that the massacre of St. Bartholomew was intended to 
extirpiate, not a religious sect, but a political party. For, beyond all doubt, 
the proceedings of the Huguenots, from the conspiracy of Amboise to the battle 
of Moncontour, had given much more trouble to the French monarchy than 
the Catholics have ever given to the English since the Refonnation ; and that 
too, with much less excuse. 

The true distinction is perfectly obvious. To punish a man because he has 
committed a crime, or is believed, though unjustly, to have committed a crime, 
is not persecution. To punish a man because we infer from the nature of some 
doctrine which he holds, or from the conduct of other persons who hold the 
same doctrines with him, that he will commit a crime, is persecution j and is, 
in every case, foolish and wicked. 

When Elizabeth put Ballard and Babington to death, she was not persecut- 
ing. Nor should we have accused her government of persecution for passing 
any law, however severe, against overt acts of sedition. But to argue that, 
because a man is a Catholic, he must right to murder a heretical 
sovereign, and that because he thinks it right he will attempt to do it, — and 
then to found on this conclusion a law for punishing him as if he had done it, 
is plain persecution. 

If, indeed, all men reasoned in the same manner on the same data, and 
always did what they thought it their duty to do, this mode of dispensing pun- 
ishment might be extremely judicious. But as people who agree about premises 
often disagree about conclusions, and as no man in the world acts up to his owii 
standard of right, there are two enormous gaps in the logic by which alone 
penalties for opinions can be defended. The doctrine of reprobation, in the 
judgment of many very able men, follows by syllogistic necessity from the 
doctrine of election. Others conceive that the Antinomian and Manichean 
heresies directly follow, from the doctrine of reprobation ; and it is very 

f generally thought that' licentiousness and cruelty of the worst description are 
ikely to be the fruits, as they often have been the fruits, of Antinomian and 
Manichean opinions. This chain of reasoning, we think, is as perfect in all 
its parts as that which makes out a Papist to be necessarily a traitor. Yet it 
would be. rather a strong measure to hang the Calvinists, on the ground that, 
if they were spared, they would infallibly commit all the atrocities of Matthias 
and Knipperdoling. For, reason the matter as we may, expei'ience shows us 
that a man may believe in election without believing in reprobation, that he 
may believe in reprobation without being an Antinomian, and that he may be 
an Antinomian without being a bad citizen. Man, in short, is so inconsistent 
a creature that it is impossible to reason from his belief to his conduct, or from 
one part of his belief to another. 

We do not believe that every Englishman who was reconciled to the Catholic 
Church woulfl, 9-s a necessary consequence, have thought himself justified in 
deposing or assassinating Elizabeth. • It isnot sufficient to say that the convert 
must have acknowleclgcd the authority of the pope and that the pope had issued 
a bull against the queen. We know through what strange loopholes the human 
mind contrives to escape when it wishes to avoid a disagreeable inference from 
an admitted proposition. We know how long the Jansenists contrived to believe 
the pope infallible in matters of doctrine, and at the same time to believe doc- 


trines which he pronounced to be heretical. Let it pass, however, that every 
Catholic in the kingdom thought that Elizabeth might be lawfully murdered. 
Still the old maxim that what is the business of everybody is the business of 
nobody is particularly likely to hold good in a case in which a cruel death is 
the almost inevitable consequence of making any attempt. 

Of the ten thousand clergymen of the Church of England there is scarcely 
one who would not say that a man who should leave his country and friends to 
preach the Gospel among savages, and who should, after labouring indefatigably 
without any hope of reward, terminate his life by martyrdom, would deserve 
the warmest admiration. Yet we doubt whether ten of the ten thousand ever 
thought of going on such an expedition. Why should we suppose that con- 
scientious motives, feeble as they are constantly found to be in a good cause, 
should be omnipotent for evil? Doubtless there was many a jolly Popish 
priest in the old manor-houses of the northern counties, who would have ad- 
mitted, in theory, the deposing power of the pope, but who would not have 
been ambitious to be stretched on the rack, even though it were to be used, 
according to the benevolent proviso of Lord Burleigh, *' as charitably as such 
a thing can be, " or to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, even though, by that 
rare indulgence which the queen, of her special grace, certain knowledge, and 
mere motion, sometimes extended to very mitigated cases, he were allowed 
a fair time to choke before the hangman began to grabble in his entrails. 
• But the laws passed against the Puritans had not even the wretched excuse 
which we have been considering. In this case the cruelty was equal, the dan- 
ger infinitely less. In fact, the danger was created solely by the cruelty. But 
it is superfluous to press the argument. By no artifice of ingenuity can the 
stigma of persecution, the worst blemish of the English Church, be effaced or 
patched over. Her doctrines, we well know, do not tend to intolerance. 
She admits the possibility of salvation out of her own pale. But this circum- 
stance, in itself honourable to her, aggravates the sin and the shame of those 
who persecuted in her name. Dominic and De Montfort did not, at least, mur« 
der and torture for differences of opinion which they considered as trifling. It 
was to stop an infection which, as they believed, hurried to perdition every soul 
which it seized, that they employed their fire and steel. The measures of the 
English government with respect to the Papist and Puritans sprang from a 
widely different principle. If those who deny that the founders of the Estab- 
lished Church were guilty of religious persecution mean only that they were 
not influenced by any religious motive, we perfectly agree with them. Neither 
the penal code of Elizabeth nor the more hateful system by which Charles II. 
attempted to force episcopacy on the Scotch, had an origin so noble. Their 
cause is to be sought in some circumstances which attended the Reformation 
in England — circumstances of which the effects long continued to be felt, and 
may in some degree be traced even at the present day. 

In Germany, in France, in Switzerland, and in Scotland the contest against 
the Papal power was essentially a rehgious contest In all those countries, 
indeed, the cause of the Reformation, like every other great cause, attracted to 
Itself many supporters influenced by no conscientious principle, — many who 
quitted the Established Church only because they though: her in danger, — 
many who were weary of her restraints, — and many who were greedy for her 
spoils. But it was not by these adherents that the separa,tion was there con- 
ducted. They were welcome auxiliaries ; their support was too often purchased 
by unworthy compliances, but, however exalted in rank or power, they were 
not the leaders in the enterprise. Men of a widely different description, men 
who redeemed great infirmities and errors by sincerity, disinterestedness, 
energy, and courage ; men who, with many of the vices of revolutionary chiefs 


and of polemic divines, united some of the highest qualities of apostles, were 
the real directors. They might be violent in innovation and scurrilous in 
controversy. They might sometimes act with inexcusable severity towards 
opponents, and sometimes connive disreputably at the vices of powerful allies. 
But fear was not in them, nor hypocrisy, nor avarice, nor any petty selfishness. 
Their one great object was the demolition of the idols and the purification of 
the sanctuary. If they were too indulgent to the failings of eminent men from 
whose patronage they expected advantage to the Church, they never flinched 
before persecuting tyrants and hostile armies. If they set the lives of others 
at naught in comparison of their doctrines, they were ready to throw away 
their own. Such were the authors of the great schism on the Continent and in 
the northern part of this island. The Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave 
of Hesse, the Prince of Conde and the King of Navarre, Moray and Morton, 
might espouse the Protestant opinions, or might pretend to espouse them ; — 
but it was from Luther, from Calvin, from Knox, that the Reformation took 
its character. 

England has no such names to show ; not that she wanted men of sincere 
piety, of deep learning, of steady and adventurous courage. But these were 
thrown into the background. Elsewhere, men of this character were the prin- 
cipals. Here they acted a secondary part. Elsewhere, worldliness was the 
tool of zeal. Here zeal was the tool of worldliness. A king, whose charac- 
ter may be best described by saying that he was despotism itself personified, 
Hnprincipled ministers, a rapacious aristocracy, a servile Parliament, — such 
,^'ere the instruments by which England was delivered from the yoke of Rome. 
The work which had been begun by Henry, the murderer of his wives, wjis 
continued by Somerset, the murderer of his brother, and completed by Eliza- 
beth, the murderer of her guest. Sprung from brutal passion, — nurtured by 
selfish policy, — the Reformation in England displayed little of what had, in 
other countries, distinguished it, — unflinching and unsparing devotion, bold- 
ness of speech, and singleness of eye. These were indeed to be found ; but 
it was in the lower ranks of the party which opposed the authority of Rome, 
in such men as Hooper, Latimer, Rogers, and Taylor. Of those who had 
any important share in bringing the alteration about, Ridley was perhaps the 
only person who did not consider it as a mere political job. Even Ridley 
did not play a very prominent part. Among the statesmen and prelates 
who principally gave the tone to the religious changes, there is one, and 
one only, whose conduct partiality itself can attribute to any other than 
interested motives. It is not strange, therefore, that his character should 
have been the subject of fierce controversy. We need not say that we speak 
of Cranmer. 

Mr. Hallam has been severely censured for saying, with his usual placid 
severity, that, *'if we weigh the character of this prelate in an equal balance, 
he will appear far indeed removed from the turpitude imputed to him by his 
enemies; yet not entitled to any extraordinary veneration." We will venture 
to expand the sense of Mr. Hallam, and to comment on it thus : — If we con- 
sider Cranmer merely as a statesman, he will not appear a much worse man 
than Wolsey, Gardiner, Cromwell, or Somerset. But when an attempt is 
made to set him up as a saint, it is scarcely possibly for any man of sense who 
knows the history of the times to preserve his gravity. If the memory of the 
archbishop had been left to find its own place, he would have soon been lost 
among the crowd which is mingled 

*' A quel cattivo coro 
Degll aneeli, che non furoo ribelli, 
Ni fur fedell a Dio, ma p«r so furo." 


And the only notice which it would have been necessary to take of his name 
would have been 

*' Non ragioniam di lui ; ma guarda, e passa." 
But, since his admirers challenge for him a place in the noble army of martyrs, 
his claims require fuller discussion. 

The origin of his greatness, common enough in the scandalous chronicles of 
courts, seems strangely out of place in a hagiology. Cranmer rose into favour 
by serving Henry in the disgraceful affair of his first divorce. He promoted 
the marriage of Anne Boleyn with the king. On a frivolous pretence, he 
pronounced that marriage null and void. On a pretence, if possible, still more 
frivolous, he dissolved the ties which bound the shameless tyrant to Anne of 
Cleves. He attached himself to Cromwell while the fortunes of Cromwell 
flourished. He voted for cutting off his head without a trial, when the tide of 
royal favour turned. He conformed backwards and forwards as the king 
changed his mind. While Henry lived, he assisted in condemning to the 
flames those who denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. When Henry died, 
he found out that the doctrine was false. He was, however, not at a loss foi 
people to bum. The authority of his station and of his grey hairs was ent.- 
ployed to overcome the disgust with which an intelligent and virtuous child 
regarded persecution. 

Intolerance is always bad. But the sanguinary intolerance of a man who 
thus wavered in his creed excites a loathing to which it is difficult to give 
vent without calling foul names. Equally false to political and religious obli- 
gations, he was first the tool of Somerset, and then the tool of Northumber- 
land. When the Protector v/ished to put his own brother to death, without 
even the serhblance of a trial, he found a ready instrument in Cranmer. In 
spite of the canon law, which forbade a churchman to take any part in matters 
of blood, the archbishop signed the warrant for the atrocious sentence. When 
Somerset had been in his turn destroyed, his destroyer received the support of 
Cranmer in a wicked attempt to change the course of the succession. 

The apology made for him by his admirers only renders his conduct more ' 
contemptible. He complied, it is said, against his better judgment, because 
he could not resist the entreaties of Edward. A holy prelate of sixty, ona 
would think, might be better employed by the bedside of a dying child than 
in committing crimes at the request of his disciple. If he had shown half as 
much firmness when Edward requested him to commit treason as he had 
before shown when Edward requested him not to commit murder, he might 
have saved the country from one of the greatest misfortunes that it ever under- 
went. He became, from whatever motive, the accomplice of the worthless 
Dudley. The virtuous scruples of another young and amiable mind were to 
be overcome. As Edward had been forced in^o persecution, Jane was to be 
seduced into usurpation. No transaction in our annals is more unjustifiable 
than this. If a hereditary title were to be respected, Mary possessed it. If a 
parliamentary title were preferable, Mary possessed that also. If the interest 
of the Protestant religion required a departure from the ordinary rule of 
succession, that interest would have been best served by raising Elizabeth to 
the throne. If the foreign relations of the kingdom were considered, still 
stronger reasons might be found for preferring Elizabeth to Jane. There was 
great doubt whether Jane or the Queen of Scotland had the better claim ; and 
that doubt would, ir. all probability, have produced a war both with Scotland 
and with France, if the project of Northumberland had not been blasted in 
its infancy. That Elizabeth had a better claim than the Queen of Scotland 
was indisputable. To the part which Cranmer, and unfortunately some better 
men than Cranmer, took in tHis most reprehensible scheme, much of the 


severity with which the Protestants were afterwards treated must in fairness. 
be ascribed. 

The plot failed ; Popery triumphed ; and Cranmer recanted. Most people* 
look on his recantation as a single blemish on an honourable life, the fr«ltjR' 
of an unguarded moment. But, in fact, it was in strict accordance with the 
system on which he had constantly acted. It was part of a regular haoity. 
It was not the first recantation that he had made ; and, in all probability, if 
it had answered its purpose, it would not have been the last. We do not 
blame him for not choosing to be burned alive. It is no very severe reproach' 
to any person that he does not possess heroic fortitude. But surely a man' 
who liked the fire so little should have had some sympathy for others. A 
persecutor who inflicts nothing which he is not ready to endure deserves 
some respect. But when a man who loves his doctrines more than the lives- 
of hi^ neighbours loves his own little finger better than his doctrines, a very 
simple argument a fortiori will enable us to estimate the amount of hiS' 

But his martyrdom, it is said, redeemed everything. It is extraordinary 
that so much ignorance should exist on this subject. The fact is that, if a. 
martyr be a man who chooses to die rather than to renounce his opinions,. 
Cranmer was no more a martyr than Dr. Dodd. He died solely because he 
could not help it. He never retracted his recantation till he found he hadi 
made it in vain. The queen was fully resolved that, Catholic or Protestant,, 
he should burn. Then he spoke out, as people generally speak out whew 
they are at the point of death and have nothing to hope or to fear on earth- 
If Mary had suffered him to live, we suspect that he would have heard mass 
and received absolution, like a good Catholic, till the accession of Elizabeth, 
and that he would then have purchased, by another apostasy, the power of 
burning men better and braver than himself. 

We do not mean, however, to represent him as a monster of wickedness. 
He was not wantonly cruel or treacherous. He was merely a supple, timid, 
interested courtier, in times of frequent and violent change. That which has 
always been represented as his distinguishing virtue, the facility with which 
he forgave his enemies, belongs to the character. Those of his class are never 
vindictive, and never grateful. A present interest effaces past services and 
past injuries from their minds together. Their only object is self-preserva- 
tion ; and for this they conciliate those who wrong them, just as they abandon 
those who serve them. Before we extol a man for his forgiving temper, we 
should inquire whether he is above revenge, or below it. 

Somerset, with as little principle as his coadjutor, had a firmer and more 
commanding mind. Of Henry, an orthodox Catholic, excepting that he 
chose to be his own pope, and of Elizabeth, who certainly had no objection 
to the theology of Rome, we need say nothing. These four persons were the 
great authors of the English Reformation. Three of them had a direct 
interest in the extension of the royal prerogative. The fourth was the ready 
tool of any who could frighten him. It is not difficult to see from what 
motives, and on what plan, such persons would be inclined to remodel the 
Church. The scheme was merely to rob the Babylonian enchantress of her 
ornaments, to transfer the full cup of her sorceries to other hands, spilling as 
liitie as possiW* by the way. The Catholic doctrines and rites were to be 
retained in the Church of England. But the king was to exercise the control 
vrhich had formerly belonged to the Roman pontiff. In this Henry for a 
time succeeded. The extraordinary force of his character, the fortunatac 
situation in which he stood with respect to foreign powers, and the vast 
tesources which the suppression of the monasteries placed at his disposal, 


enabled him to oppress both the religious factions equally. He punished 
with impartial severity those who renounced the doctrines of Rome, and those 
who acknowledged her jurisdiction. The basis, however, on which he 
attempted to establish his power was too narrow to be durable. It would 
have been impossible even for him long to persecute both persuasions. Even 
under his reign there had been insurrections on the part of the Catholics, and 
signs of a spirit which was likely soon to produce insurrection on the part of 
the Protestants. It was plainly necessary, therefore, that the government 
should forria an alliance with one or with the other side. To recognize the 
Papal supremacy, would have been to abandon the whole design. Reluctantly 
and sullenly it at last joined the Protestants. In forming this junction, its 
object was to procure as much aid as possible for its selfish undertaking, and 
to make the smallest possible concessions to the spirit of religious innovation. 

From this compromise the Church of England sprang. In many resgects, 
indeed, it has been well for her that, in an age of exuberant zeal, her prin- 
cipal founders were mere politicians. To this circumstance she owes her 
moderate articles, her decent ceremonies, her noble and pathetic liturgy. 
Her worship is not disfigured by mummery. Yet she has preserved, in a far 
greater degree than any of her Protestant sisters,'^hat art of striking the senses 
and filling the imagination in which the Catholic Church so eminently excels. 
But, on the other hand, she continued to be, for more than a hundred &iid 
•fifty years, the servile handmaid of monarchy, the steady enemy of public 
liberty. The divine right of kings, and the duty of passively obeying all their 
commands, were her favourite tenets. She held them firmly through times of 
oppression, persecution, and licentiousness ; while law was trampled down ; 
while judgment was perverted ; while the people were eaten as though they 
were bread. Once, and but once, — for a moment, and but for a moment, — 
when her own dignity and property were touched, she forgot to practise the 
submission which she had taught. 

Elizabeth clearly discerned the advantages which were to be derived from a 
close connection between the monarchy and the priesthood. At the tine of 
her accession, indeed, she evidently meditated a partial reconciliation with 
Rome. And, throughout her whole life, she leaned strongly to some of the 
most obnoxious parts of the Catholic system. But her imperious temper, 
her keen sagacity, and her peculiar situation, soon led her to attach herself 
completely to a Church which was all her own. On the same principle on 
which she joined it, she attempted to drive all her people within its pale by 
persecution. She supported it by severe penal laws, not because she thought 
conformity to its discipline necessary to salvation ; but because it was the 
fastness which arbitrary power was making strong for itself ;— because she ex- 
pected a more profound obedience from those who saw in her both their civil 
and their ecclesiastical chief, than from those who, like the Papists, ascribed 
spiritual authority to the Pope, or from those who, like some of the Puritans, 
ascribed it only to Heaven. To dissent from her establishment was to dissent 
from an institution founded with an express view to the maintenance and 
extension of the royal prerogative. 

The great queen and her successors, by considering conformity and loyalty 
as identical, at length made them so. With respect to the Catholics, indeecl, 
the rigour of persecution abated after her death. James soon found that they 
were unable to injure him, and that the animosity which the Puritan party 
felt towards them drove them of necessTty to take refuge under his throne. 
During the subsequent conflict, their fault was anything but disloyalty. On 
the other hand, James hated the Puritans with more than the hatred of Eliza- 
beth, Her aversion to them was political ; his was personal. The sect had 


plagued him in Scotland, where he was weak j and he was determined to be 
even with them in England, where he was powerful. Persecution gradually- 
changed a sect into a faction. That there was anything in the rfligious 
opinions of the Puritans which rendered them hostile to monarchy has never 
been proved to our satisfaction. After our civil contests, it became the fashion 
to say that Presbyterianism was connected with Republicanism ; just ac 
It hcia been the fashion to say, since the time of the French Revolution, 
that infidelity is connected with Republicanism. It is perfectly true that a 
Church, constituted on the Calvinistic model, will not strengthen the hands 
of the sovereign so much as a hierarchy which consists of several ranks, 
differing in dignity and emolument, and of which all the members are con- 
stantly looking to the government for promotion. But experience has clearly 
shown that a Calvinistic Church, like every other Church, is disaffected when 
it is persecuted, quiet when it is tolerated, and actively loyal when it is 
favoured and cherished. Scotland has had a Presbyterian establishment during 
a century and a half. Yet her general assembly has not, during that period, 
given half so much trouble to the government as the convocation of the 
Church of England gave to it during the thirty years which followed the 
Revolution. That James and Charles should have been mistaken in this point 
is not surprising. But we are astonished, we must confess, that men of our 
own time, men who have before them the proof of what" toleration can effect, 
— men who may see with their own eyes that the Presbyterians are no such 
monsters when government is wise enough ^to let them alone, should defend 
the old persecutions on the ground that they were indispensable to the safety of 
the Church and the throne. 

How persecution protects churches and thrones was soon made manifest. 
A systematic political opposition, vehement, daring, and inflexible, sprang 
from a schism about trifles altogether unconnected with the real interests of 
religion or of the state. Before the close of the reign of Elizabeth this oppo- 
sition began to show itself. It broke forth on the question of the monopolies. 
Even the imperial lioness was compelled to abandon her prey, and slowly 
and fiercely to recede before the assailants. The spirit of liberty grew with 
the growing wealth and intelligence of the people. The feeble struggles 
and insults of James irritated instead of suppressing it; and the events which 
immediately followed the accession of his son portended a contest of no com- 
mon severity between a king resolved to be absolute, and a people resolved 
to be free. 

The famous proceedings of the third Parliament of Charles and the tyran- 
nical measures which followed its dissolution are extremely well described 
by Mr. Hallam. No writer, we think, has shown, in so clear and satisfactory 
a manner, that at that time the government entertained a fixed purpose of 
destroying the old parliamentary constitution of England, or at least of reducing 
it to a mere shadow. We hasten, however, to a part of his work which, 
though it abounds in valuable information and in remarks well deserving to 
be attentively considered, — and though it is, like the rest, evidently written 
in a spirit of perf'-ct impartiality, appears to us, in many points, objection- 

We pass to th( year 1640. The fate of the short Parliament held in that 
year clearly indicated the views of the king. That a Parliament so moderate 
in feeling should have met after so many years of oppression is truly wonder- 
ful. Hyde extols its loyal and corvfiliatory spirit. Its conduct, v/e are told, 
made the excellent Falkland in love with the very name of Parliament. We 
iliink, indeed, with Oliver St. John, that its moderation was carried too far, 
and that the times required sharper and more decided councils. l\ was fc^ 

. D 


tunate, however, that the king had another opportunity of showing that hatred 
of the liberties of his subjects which was the ruling principle of all his conduct. 
The sole crime of this assembly was that, meeting after a long intermission of 
Parliaments, and.after a long series of cruelties and illegal imposts, they seemed 
inclined to examine grievances before they would vote supplies. For this 
insolence they were dissolved almost as soon as they met. 

Defeat, universal agitation, financial embarrassments, disorganization in every 
part of the government, compelled Charles again to convene the Houses before 
the close of the same year. Their meeting was one of the great eras in the 
liistory of the civilized world. Whatever of political freedom exists either in 
Europe or in America, has sprung, directly or .indirectly, from those institu- 
tions which they secured and reformed. We never turn to the annals of those 
times without feeling increased admiration of the patriotism, the energy, the 
decision, the consummate wisdom, which marked the measures of that great 
Parliament, from the day on which it met b the commencement of civil 

The impeachment of Strafford was the first, and perhaps the greatest blov/. 
The whole conduct of that celebrated man proved that he had formed a 
deliberate scheme to subvert the fundamental laws of England. Those parts 
of his correspondence which have been brought to light since his death place 
the mattei beyond a doubt. One of his admirers has, indeed, offered to show 
"that the passages which Mr. Hallam has invidiously extracted from the 
correspondence between Laud and Strafford, as proving their design to 
introduce a thorougii tyranny, refer not to any such design, but to a thorough 
reform in the affairs of state, and the thorough maintenance of just authority.'* 
We will recommend two or three of these passages to the especial notice of 
our readers. 

All who know anything of those times know that the conduct of Hampden 
n the affair of the Ship-money met with the warm approbation of every 
respectable Royalist in England. It drew forth the ardent eulogies of the 
champions of the prerogative and even of the Crown lawyers themselves. 
Clarendon allows his demeanour through the whole proceeding to have been 
such that even those who watched for an occasion against the defender of the 
people were compelled to acknowledge themselves- unable to find any fault in 
him- That he was right in the point of law is now 'universally admitted. 
Even had it been otherwise, he had a fair case. Five of the judges, servile as 
our courts then were, pronounced in his favour. The majority against him 
v\'as the smallest possible. In no country retaining the slightest vestige of 
constitutional liberty can a modest and decent appeal to the laws be treated as 
a crime. Strafford, however, recommends that, for taking the sense of a legal 
tribunal on a legal question, Hampden should be punished, and punished 
severely, '* whipt," says the insolent apostate, *' whipt into his senses. If the 
rod," he adds, " be so used that it smarts not, I am the more sorry." This is 
the maintenance of just authority. 

In civilized nations, the most arbitrary governments have generally suffered 
justice to have a free course in private suits. Strafford wished to make every 
cause in every court subject to the royal prerogative. He complained that in 
Ireland he was not permitted to meddle in cases between party and party. " I 
know very well," says he, "that the common lawyers will be passionately 
against it, who are wont to put such a prejudice upon all other professions, as 
if noni were to be trusted or capable to administer justice, but themselves ; 
yet how well this suits with monarchy, when they monopolise all to be governed 
by their year-books, you in England have a costly example." We are really 
curious to kiiow by what ai-guments it is to be proved thot the power of 


interfering in the law-suits of individuals is part of the just authority of the 
executive government. 

It is not strange that a man so careless of the common civil rights, v^^hich 
even despots have generally respected, should treat with scorn the limitations 
which the Constitution imposes on the royal prerogative. We might quote 
pages : but we will content ourselves with a single specimen : — ** Th« debts 
of the Crown being taken oS^, you may govern as you please: and most re- 
solute I am that may be done without borrowing any help forth of the king's 

Such was the theory of that thorough reform in the state which Strafford 
meditated. His whole practice, from the day on which he sold^ himself to 
the court, was in strict conformity to his theory. For his accomplices various 
excuses may be urged, ignorance, imbecility, religious bigotry. But WeHt- 
worth had no such plea. His intellect was capacious. His early prepos- 
sessions were on the side of popular rights. He knew the whole beauty and 
value of the system which he attempted to deface. He was the first of the 
Rats, — the first of those statesmen whose patriotism has been only the co- 
quetry of political prostitution, and whose profligacy has taught governments 
to adopt the old maxim of the slave-market, that it is cheaper to buy than 
to breed, to import defenders from an opposition than to rear them in r 
ministry. He was the first Englishman to whom a peerage was not [an ad- 
dition of honour, but a sacrament of infamy — a baptism into the communion 
of corruption. As he was the earliest of the hateful list, so was he also by far 
the greatest ; — eloquent, sagacious, adventurous, intrepid, ready of inven- 
tion, immutable of purpose, in every talent which exalts or destroys nations 
pre-eminent, the lost Archangel, the Satan of the apostasy. The title for 
which, at the time of his desertion, he exchanged a name honourably dis- 
tinguished in the cause of the people, reminds us of the appellation which, 
from the moment of the first treason, fixed itself on the fallen Son of the 

" so call him now. — His former name 

Is heard no more in heaven." 

The defection of Strafford from the popular party contributed mainly to 
draw on him the hatred of his contemporaries. It has since made him an 
object of peculiar interest to those whose lives have been spent, like his, in 
proving that there is no malice like the malice of a renegade. Nothing can 
be more natural or becoming than that one turncoat should eulogize another. 

Many enemies of public liberty have been distinguished by their private 
virtues. But Strafford was the same throughout. As was the statesman, such 
was the kinsman, and such the lover. His conduct towards Lord Mount- 
morris is recorded by Clarendon. For a word which can scarcely be called 
rash, which could not have been made the subject of an ordinary civil action, \ 
he [dragged a man of high rank, married to a relative of that saint about 
whom he whimpered to the Peers, before a tribunal of slaves. Sentence of ■ 
death was passed. Everything but death was inflicted. Yet the treatment 
which Lord Ely experienced was still more scandalous. That nobleman was 
thrown into pr'son, in order to compel him to settle his estate in a manner 
agreeable to Lis daughter-in-law, whom, as there is every reason to believe, 
Strafford had debauched. These stories do not rest on vague report. The 
historians most partial to the minister admit their truth, and censure them in 
terms which, though too lenient for the occasion, are still severe. These facts 
are alone sufficient to justify the appellation with which Pym branded him-^ 
*'the wicked Earl." 

In spite of all his vices, in spite' of all his dangerous projects— Stra^ord^WM 


certainly entitled to the benefit of the law ; — but of the law in all its rigour ; 
of the law according to the utmost strictness of the letter, which killeth. He 
was not to be torn in pieces by a mob, or stabbed in the back by an assassin. 
He was not to have punishment meted out to him from his own iniquitous 
measure. But if justice, in the whole range of its wide armoury, contained 
one weapon which could pierce him, that weapon his pursuers were bound, 
before god and man, to employ. 

^ "If he may 

Find mercy in the law, 'tis his : if none. 
Let him not seek't of us." 

Such was the language which the Parliament might justly use. 

Did, then, the articles against Strafford strictly amount to high treason? 
Many people, who know neither what the articles were nor what high 
treason is, will answer in the negative, simply because the accused person, 
speaking for his life, took that ground of defence. The journals of the Lords 
show that the judges were consulted. They answered, with one accord, that 
the articles on which the earl was convicted amounted to high treason. 
This judicial opinion, even if we suppose it to have been erroneous, goes far 
to justify the Parliament. The judgment pronounced in the Exchequer 
Chamber has always been urged by the apologists of Charles in defence of 
hjs conduct respecting Ship-money. Yet on that occasion there was but a 
bare majority in favour of the party at whose pleasure all the magistrates 
composing the tribunal were removable. The decision in the case of Straf- 
ford was unanimous ; as far as we can judge, it was unbiassed ; and though 
there may be room for hesitation, we think on the whole that it was reason- 
able. "It may be remarked," says Mr. Hallam, "that the fifteenth article 
of the impeachment, charging Strafford with raising money by his own 
authority, and quartering troops on the people of Ireland in order to compel 
their obedience to his unlawful requisitions, upon which, and upon one other 
article, not upon the whole matter, the Peers voted him guilty, does, at least, 
approach very nearly, if we may not say more, to a substantive treason 
•vithin the statute of Edward III., as a levying of war against the king." 
This most sound and just exposition has provoked a very ridiculous reply. 
" It should seem to be an Irish construction this," says an assailant of 
Mr. Hallam, "which makes the raising money for the king's service, 
with his knowledge, and by his approbation, to 'come under the head of 
levying war on the king, and therefore to be high treason." Now, people 
who undertake to write on points of constitutional law should know what 
every attorney's clerk and every forward schoolboy on an upper form knows, 
that by a fundamental maxim of our polity, the king can do no wrong ; that 
every court is bound to suppose his conduct and his sentiments to be, on 
every occasion, such as they ought to be, [and that no evidence can be received 
for the purpose of setting aside this loyal and salutary presumption. The 
Lords, therefore, were bound to take it for granted that the king considered 
arms which^were unlawfully directed against his people, as directed against his 
own throne. 

The remarks of Mr. Hallam on the bill of attainder, though, as usual, 
weighty and acute, do not perfectly satisfy us. He defends the principle, but 
objects to the severity of the punishment. That on great emergencies, the 
State may justifiably j^ass a retrospective act against an offender, we have 
ntj doubt whatever. We are acquainted with only one argument on the 
other side, which has in it enough of reason to bear an snswer. Warning, 
it is said, is the end of punishment. But a punishment inflicted, not by ; 


general rule, but by an arbitrary discretion, cannot serve the purpose of a 
warning ; it is, therefore, useless, and useless pain ought not ; b be inflicted. 
This sophism has found its way into several books on penal legislation. It 
admits, however, of a very simple refutation. In the first place, punishments 
ipt post facto are not altogether useless even as warnings. They are warnings 
lo a particular class which stand in great need of warnings, to favourites and 
ministers. They remind persons of this description that there may be a day 
of reckoning for those who ruin and enslave their country in all the forms of 
law. But this is not all. Warning is, in ordinary cases, the principal end 
of punishment ; but it is not the only end. To remove the offender, to pre- 
serve society from those dangers which are to be apprehended from his incor- 
rigible depravity, is often one of the ends. In the case of such a knave as 
Wild, or such a ruffian as Thurtell, it is a very important end. In the case of 
a powerful and wicked statesman it is infinitely more important; so im- 
portant as alone to justify the utmost severity, even though it were certain 
that his fate would not deter others from imitating his example. At present, 
indeed, we shoujd think it extremely pernicious to take such a course, even 
with a worse minister than Strafford— if a worse could exist ; for, at present. 
Parliament has only to withhold its support from a Cabinet to produce an 
immediate change of hands. The case was widely different in the reign of 
Charles I. That prince had governed during eleven years without any Parlia- 
ment ; and, even when Parliament was sitting, had supported Buckingham 
against its most violent remonstrances. 

Mr. Hallam is of opinion that a bill of pains and penalties ought to have 
been passed against Strafford ; but he draws a distinction less just, we think, 
than his distinctions usually are. His opinion, so far as we can collect it, is 
this — that there are almost insurmountable objections to retrospective laws for 
capital punishment ; but that, where the punishment stops short of death, the 
objections are comparatively trifling. Now, the practice of taking the severity 
of the penalty into consideration, when the question is about the mode of 
procedure and the rules of evidence, is no doubt sufficiently common. We 
often see a man convicted of a simple larceny on evidence on which he would 
not be convicted of a burglary. It sometimes happens that a jury, when 
there is strong suspicion, but not absolute demonstration, that an act, un- 
questionably amounting to murder, was committed by the prisoner before them, 
will find him guilty of manslaughter, but this is surely very irrational. The 
rules of evidence no more depend on the magnitude of the interests at stake 
than the rales of arithmetic. We might as well say that we have a greater 
chance of throwing a size when we are playing for a penny than when we are 
playing for a thousand pounds, as that a form of trial which is sufficient for 
the purposes of justice, in a matter affecting liberty and property, is insufficient 
in a matter affecting life. Nay, if a mode of proceeding be too lax for capital 
cases, it is, ^fortiori, too lax for all others ; for, in capital cases, the principles 
of human nature will always afford considerable security. No judge is so 
cruel as he who indemnifies himself for scrupulosity in cases of blood by 
licence in affairs of smaller importance. The difference in tale on the one 
side far more than makes up for the difference in weight on the other. 

If there be any universal objection to retrospective punishment, there is no 
more to be said. But such is not the opinion of Mr. Hallam. He approves 
of tne mode of proceeding. He thinks that a punishment, not previously 
affixed by law to the offences of Strafford, should have been inflicted ; that he 
should have been degraded from his rank, and condemned to perpetual ban- 
ishment by act of Parliament ; but he sees strong objections to the taking 
away of his life. Our difficulty would have been at the £rst step, and thei-tf 


only. Indeed, we can scarcely conceive that any case which does not call 
for capital punishment, can call for retrospective punishment. We can 
scarcely conceive a man so wicked and so dangerous that the whole course of 
law must be disturbed in order to reach him ; yet not so wicked as to deserve 
the severest sentence, nor so dangerous as to require the last and surest custody 
— that of the grave. If we had thought that Strafford might be safely suffered 
to live in France, we should have thought it better that he should continue 
to live in England than that he should be exiled by a special act. As to 
degradation, it was not the earl, but the general and the statesman, whom 
the people had to fear. Essex said on that occasion, with more truth than 
eloquence, " Stone-dead hath no fellow." And often during the civil wars 
the Parliament had reason to rejoice that an irreversible law and an impassable 
barrier protected them from the valour and capacity of Strafford. 

It is remarkable that neither Hyde nor Falkland voted against the bill of 
attainder. There is, indeed, reason to believe that Falkland spoke in favour 
of it. In one respect, as Mr. Hallam has observed, the proceeding was 
honourably distinguished from others of the same kind. An act was passed 
to relieve the children of Strafford from the forfeiture and corruption of blood 
which were the legal consequences of the sentence. The Crown had never 
shown equal generosity in a case of treason. The liberal conduct of the 
Commons has been fully and most appropriately repaid. The house of Went- 
. worth has since that time been as much distinguished by public spirit as by 
power and splendour, and may at the present moment boast of members with 
whom Say and Hampden would have been proud to act. 

It is somewhat curious that the admirers of Strafford should also be, with- 
out a single exception, the admirers of Charles ; for, whatever we may think 
of the conduct of the Parliament towards the unhappy favourite, there can be 
no doubt that the treatment which he received from his master was disgraceful. 
Faithless alike to his people and to his tools, the king did not scruple to play 
the part of the cowardly approver, who hangs his accomplice. It is good 
that there should be such men as Charles in every league of villainy. It is for 
such men that the offer of pardon and reward v/hich appears after a murder is 
intended. They are indemnified, remunerated, and despised. The very 
magistrate who avails himself of their assistance looks on them as wretches 
more degraded than the criminal whom they betray. Was Strafford inno- 
cent? was he a meritorious servant of the Crown? If so, what shall we 
think of the prince who, having solemnly promised him that not a hair of his 
head should be hurt, and possessing an unquestioned constitutional right to 
save him, gave him up to the vengeance of his enemies ? There were some 
points which we know that Charles would not concede, and for which he was 
willing to risk the chances of civil war. Ought not a king, who will make a 
stand for anything, to make a stand for the innocent blood ? Was Strafford 
guilty ? Even on this supposition, it is difficult not to feel disdain for the 
, partner of his guilt, the tempter turned punisher. If, indeed, from that time 
forth, the conduct of Charles had been blameless, it might have been said 
that his eyes were at last opened to the errors of his former conduct, and that, 
in sacrificing to the wishes of his Parliament a minister whose crime had been 
a devotion too zealous to the interests of his prerogative, he gave a painful 
and deeply humiliating proof of the sincerity of his repentance. We may de- 
scribe his behaviour on this occasion in terms resembling those which Hume 
has employed when speaking of the conduct of Churchill at the Revolution. It 
required ever after the most rigid justice and sincerity in his dealings with his 
people to vindicate it. His subsequent dealings with his people, however, clearly 
showed, that it was not from any respect for the Constitution, or from anr 


sense of the deep criminality of the plans in which Strafford and himself had 
been engaged, that he gave up his minister to the axe. It became evident 
that he had abandoned a servant who, deeply guilty as to all others, was guilt- 
less to him alone, solely in order to gain time for maturing other schemes of 
tyranny, and purchasing the aid of other Wentworths. He, who would not 
avail himself of the power which the laws gave him to save a friend to whom 
his honour was pledged, soon showed that he did not scruple to break every 
law and forfeit every pledge in order to work the ruin of his opponents. 

* * Put not your trust in princes ! " was the expression of the fallen mininter, 
when he heard that Charles had consented to his death. The whole history 
of the times is a sermon on that bitter text. The defence of the Long Parlia- 
ment is comprised in the dying words of its victim. 

The early measures of that Parliament Mr. Hallam in general approves. 
But he considers the proceedings which took place after the recess in the 
summer of 1641 as mischievous and violent. He thinks that, from that time, 
the demands of the Houses were not warranted by any imminent danger to 
the Constitution, and that m the war which ensued they were clearly the 
aggressors. As tnis is cue of the most interesting questions in our history, we 
will venture to state, at some length, the reasons which have led us to form an 
opinion on ic contrary to that of a writer "whose judgment we so highly respect. 

We will premise that we think worse of King Charles I. than even Mr. 
Hallam appears to do. The fixed hatred of liberty which was the principle 
of the king's public conduct, the unscrpulousness with which he adopted any 
means which might enable him to attain his ends ; the readiness with which 
he gave promises, the impudence with which he broke them, the cruel indiffer- 
ence v/ith which he threw away his useless or damaged tools, rendered him — 
at least till his character was fully exposed and his power shaken to its founda- 
tions, — a more dangerous enemy to the Constitution than a man of far greater 
talents and resolution might have been. Such princes may still be seen, — the 
scandals of the southern thrones of Europe ; — princes false alike to the accom- 
plices who have served them and to the opponents who have spared them ; — 
crinces who, in the hour of danger, concede everything, swear everything, — 
riold out their cheeks to every smiter, — give up to punishment every minister 
of their tyranny, and await with meek and smiling implacability the blessed 
day of perjury and proscription. 

We will pass by the instances of oppression and falsehood which disgraced 
)lhe early part of the reign of Charles. We will leave out of the question the 
^'hole history of his third Parliament, — the price which he exacted for assent- 
ing to the Petition of Right, — the perfidy with which he violated his engage- 
ments, — the death of Eliot, — the barbarous punishments inflicted by the Star 
Chamber, — the Ship-money, and all the measures now universally condemned, 
which disgraced his administration from 1630 to 1640. We will admit that it 
might be the duty of the Parliament, after punishing the most guilty of his 
creatures, — after abolishing the inquisitorial tribunals which had been the in- 
struments of his tyranny, — after reversing the unjust sentences of his victims, 
to pause in its course. The concessions which had been made were great, 
Uae evils of civil war obvious — the advantages even of victory doubtful. The 
former errors of the king might be imputed to youth, — to the pressure of cir- 
cumstances, — to the influence of evil counsel, — to the undefined state of the 
law. We firmly believe that, if even at this eleventh hour, Charles had acted 
fairly towards his people, if he had even acted fairly towards his own parti- 
sans, the House of Commons would have given him a fair chance of retrieving 
the public confidence. Such was the opinion of Clarendon. He distinctly 
states that the fury of oppositjion had abatect, — that a reaction had begun to 


take place, — that the majority of those who had taken part against the king 
were desirous of an honourable and complete reconciliation, and that the 
more violent, or, as it soon appeared, the more judicious members of the 
party, were fast declining in credit. The remonstrance had been carried with 
great difficulty. The uncompromising antagonists of the court, such as 
Cromwell, had begun to talk of selling their estates and leaving England. 
The event soon showed that they were the only men who really understood 
how much inhumanity and fraud lay hid under the constitutional language and 
tiracious demeanour of the king. 

\\\<i attempt to seize the five members was undoubtedly the real cause ot 
the war. From that moment the loyal confidence with which most of the 
popular party were beginning to regard the king was turned into hatred and 
incurable suspicion. From that moment the Parliament was compelled to 
surround itself with defensive arms ; — from that moment the city assumed the 
appearance of a garrison ; — from that moment it was that, in the phrase of 
Clarendon, the carriage of Hampden became fiercer, that he drew the sword 
and threw away the scabbard. For, from that moment, it must have been 
evident to every impartial observer, that in the midst of professions, oaths, and 
•smiles, the tyrant was constantly looking forward to an absolute sway and to a 
bloody revenge. 

The advocates of Charles have very dexterously contrived to conceal from 
their readers the real nature of this transaction. By making concessions 
apparently candid and ample, they elude the great accusation. They allow 
that the measure was weak and even frantic, — an absurd caprice of Lord 
Digby, absurdly adopted by the king. And thus they save their client from 
the full penalty of his transgression, by entering a plea of guilty to the minor 
offence. To us his conduct appears at this day as at the time it appeared to 
the Parliament and the city. We think it by no means so foolish as it pleases 
his friends to represent it, and far more wicked. 

In the first place, the transaction was illegal from beginning to end. The 
impeachment was illegal. The process was illegal. The service was illegal. 
If Charles wished to prosecute the five members for treason, a bill against 
them should have been sent to a grand jury. That a commoner cannot be 
tried for high treason by the Lords, at the suit of the Crown, is part of the 
very alphabet of our law. That no man can be arrested by a message or 
verbal summons of the king, with or without a warrant from a responsible 
magistrate, is equally clear. This was an established maxim of our jurispru- 
dence in the time of Edward IV. ** A subject," said Chief Justice Markham 
to that prince, " may arrest for treason : the king cannot ; for, if the arrest 
be illegal, the party has no remedy against the king." 

The time at which Charles took this step also deserves consideration. We 
liave already said that the ardour which the Parliament had displayed at the 
time of its first meeting had considerably abated, that the leading opponents 
of the Court were desponding, and that their followers were in general inclined 
to milder and more temperate measures than those which had hitherto been 
pursued. In every country, and in none more than in England, there is a 
disi-osition to take the part of those who are unmercifully nm down and who 
seem destitute of all means of defence. Every man who has observed the ebb 
and flow of public feeling in our ovra time will easily recall examples to 
Illustrate this remark. An English statesman ought to pay assiduous worship 
io Nemesis, — to be most apprehensive of ruin, when he is at the height of 
power and popularity, and to dread his enemj^^woet when most completely 
prostrated. The fate of the coalition ministry of 1784 is perhaps the strongest 
mstance in our history of the operation of this principle. A few weeks turned 


the ablest and most extended ministry that ever existed into a feeble opposi- 
tion, and raised a king who was talking of retiring to Hanover, to a height of 
power which none of his predecessors had enjoyed since the Revolution. A 
crisis of this description was evidently approaching in 1642. At such a crisis 
a prince of a really honest and generous nature, who had erred, who had seen 
his error, who had regretted the lost affections of his people, who rejoiced in 
the dawning hope of regaining them, would be peculiarly careful to take no 
step which could give occasion of offence, even to the unreasonable. On the 
other hand, a tyrant, whose whole life was a lie, who hated the Constitution 
the more becausehe had been compelled to feign respect for it, and to whom 
his honour and the love of his people were as nothing, would select such a 
crisis for some appalling violation of law, for some stroke which might remove 
the chiefs of an opposition, and intimidate the herd. This Charles attempted. 
He missed his blow ; — but so narrowly that it would have been mere madness 
in those at whom it was aimed to trust him again. 

It deserves to be remarked that the king had, a short time before, pro- 
mised the most. respectable Royalists in the house of Commons, Falkland, 
Colepepper, and Hyde, that he would take no measure in which that House 
was concerned, without consulting them. On this occasion he did not con- 
sult them. His conduct astonished them more than any other members of 
the Assembly. Clarendon says that they were deeply hurt by this want of 
confidence, and the more hurt, because, if they had been consulted, they would 
have done their utmost to dissuade Charles from so improper a proceeding. 
Did it never occur to Clarendon, — will it not at least occur to men less 
partial, — that there was good reason for this ? When the danger to the throne 
seem*ed imminent, the king was ready to put himself for a time into the hands 
of those who, though they disapproved of his past conduct, thought that the 
remedies had now become worse than the distempei^s. But we believe that 
in his heart he regarded both the parties in the Parliament with feelings of 
aversion which differed only in the degree of their intensity, and that the 
awful warning which he proposed to give, by immolating the principal sup- 
•^orters of the remonstrance, was partly intended for the instruction of those 
who had concurred in censuring the Ship-money and in abolishing the Star 

The Commons informed the king that their members should be forth- 
coming to answer any charge legally brought r-jainst them. The Lords 
refused to assume the unconstitutional office with which he attempted to in- 
vest them. And what was then his conduct ? He went, attended by hundreds 
of armed men, to seize the objects of his hatred in the House itself. The 
party opposed to him more than insinuated that his purpose was of the most 
atrocious kind. We will not condemn him merely on their suspicions. We 
,will not hold him answerable for the sanguinary expressions of the loose 
.brawlers who composed his train. We will judge of his act by itself alone. 
'And we say, without hesitation, that it is impossible to acquit him of having 
meditated violence, and violence which might probably end in blood. He 
knew t\at the legality of his proceedings was denied ; he must have known 
that some of the accused members were not men likely to submit peaceably to 
an illegal arrest. There was every reason to expect that he would find them 
in their places, that they would refuse to obey his summons, and that the 
'.House would support them in their refusal. What course would then have 
.been left to him ? Unless we suppose that he went on this expedition for the 
Jsole purpose of making himself ridiculous, we must believe that he would 
have had recourse to force. There would have been a scufile ; and it might 
not, under such circumstances, have been in his power, even if it had been in 


his inclination, to prevent a scuffle from endin,^; in a massacre. Fortunately 
for his fame, unfortunately, perhaps, for what he prized far more, the interest* 
of his hatred and his ambition, the affair ended differently. The birds, as he 
said, were flown, and his plan was disconcerted. Posterity is not extreme to 
mark abortive crimes ; and thus the king's advocates have found it easy tc 
represent a step which, but for a trivial accident, might have filled England 
with mourning and dismay, as a mere error of judgment, wild and foolisfi, but 
perfectly innocent. Such was not, however, at the time, the opinion of any 
party. The most zealous Royalists were so much disgusted and ashamed that 
they suspended their opposition to the popular party, and, silently at least. 
Concurred in measures of precaution so strong as almost to amount to re- 

From that day, whatever of confidence and loyal attachment had survived 
the misrule of seventeen years was, in the great body of the people, extin- 
guished, and extinguished for ever. As soon as the outrage had failed, the 
hypocrisy recommenced. Down to the very eve of this flagitious attempt, 
Charles had been talking of his respect for the privileges of Parliament and 
the liberties of his people. He began again in the same style on the morrow ; 
but it was too late. To trust him now v/ould have been, not moderation, but 
insanity. What common security would suffice against a prince who was 
evidently watching his season with that cold and patient hatred which, in the 
long run, tires out every other passion ? 

It is certainly from no admiration of Charles that Mr. Hallam disapproves 
of the conduct of the Houses in resorting to arms. But he thinks that any 
attempt on the part of that prince to establish a despotism would have been 
as strongly oppQf>ed by his adherents as by his enemies, and that therefore 
the Constitution might be considered as out of danger, or, at least, that it had 
more to apprehend from the war than from the king On this subject Mr. 
Plallam dilates at length, and with conspicuous ability. We will offer a few 
considerations which lead us to incline to a different opinion. 

The Constitution of England was only one of a large family. In all the 
monarchies of western Europe, during the middle ages, there existed restraints 
on the royal authority, fundamental laws, and representative assemblies. In 
the fifteenth century the government of Castile seems to have been as' free as 
that of our own country. That of Arragon was beyond all question more so. 
In France the sovereign was more absolute. Yet, even in France, the 
States-General alone could constitutionally impose taxes ; and, at the very 
time when the authority of those assemblies was beginning to languish, the 
Parliament of Paris received such an accession of strength as enabled it, in 
some measure, to perform the functions of a legislative assembly. Sweden 
and Denmark had constitutions of a similar description. 

Let us overleap two or three hundred years, and contemplate Europe at the 
commencement of the eighteenth century. Every free constitution, save one, 
had gone down. That of England had weathered the danger, and was riding 
in full security. In Denmark and Sweden the kings, had availed themselves 
of the disputes which raged between the nobles and the commons, to unite all 
the powers of government in their own-, hands. In France the institution of 
the States was only mentioned by lawyers as a part of the ancient theory of 
their government. It slept a deep sleep, destined to be broken by a tremen- 
dous waking. No person remembered the sittings of the three orders, or ex- 
pected ever to see them renewed. . Louis the Fourteenth had imposed on his 
Parliament a patient silence of sixty years. His grandson, after the War of 
the Spanish Succession, assimilated the constitution of Arragon to that of 
Castile «ind extinguished the last feeble remains of liberty in the Peninsula, 


In England, on the other hand, the Parliament was infinitely more powerful 
than it had ever been. Not only was its legislative authority fully established ; 
but its right to interfere, by advice almost equivalent to command, in every 
department of the executive ^^overnment, was recognized. The appointment 
of ministers, the relations with foreign powers, the conduct of a war or a 
negotiation, depended less on the pleasure of the prince than on that of the 
two Houses. 

What then made us to differ ? Why was it that, in that epidemic malady 
of constitutions, ours escaped the destroying influence ; or rather that, at the 
very crisis of the disease, a favourable turn took place in England, and in 
England alone ? It was not surely without a cause that so many kindred sys- 
tems of government, having flourished together so long, languished and expired 
at almost the same time. 

It is the fashion to say, that the progress of civilization is favourable to 
liberty. The maxim, though on the whole true, must be limited by many 
qualifications and. exceptions. Wherever a poor and rude nation, in which the 
form of government is a limited monarchy, receives a great accession of wealth 
and knowledge, it is in imminent danger of falling under arbitrary power. 

In such a state of society as that which existed all over Europe during the 
middle ages it was not from the king but from the nobles that there was 
danger. Very slight checks sufliced to keep the sovereign in order. His 
means of corruption and intimidation were scanty. He had little money, 
little patronage, — no military establishment. His armies resembled juries. 
They were drafted out of the mass of the people : they soon returned to it 
again : and the character which was habitual prevailed over that which was 
occasional. A campaign of forty days was too short, the discipline of a 
national militia too lax, to efface from their minds the feelings of civil life. 
As they carried to the camp the sentiments and interests of the farm and the 
shop, so they carried back to the farm and the shop the military accomplish- 
ments which they had acquired in the camp. At home the soldier learned 
how to value his rights — abroad how to defend them. 

Such a military force as this was a far stronger restraint on the regal power 
than any legislative assembly. Resistance to an established government, in 
modern times so difficult and perilous an enterprise, was, in the fourteenth 
and fifteenth centuries the simplest and easiest matter in the world. Indeed, 
it was far too simple and easy. An insurrection was got up then almost as 
easily as a petition is got up now. In a popular cause, or even in an un- 
popular cause, favoured by a few great nobles, a force of ten thousand armed 
men was raised in a week. If the king were, like our Edward II. and 
Richard II., generally odious, he could not procure a single bow or 
halbert. He fell at once and without an effort. In such times a sovereign 
like Louis the Fifteenth or the Emperor Paul, would have been pulled down 
before his misgovernment had lasted for a month. We find that all the fame 
and influence of our Edward III. could not save his Madame de Pompadour 
from the effects of the public hatred. 

Hume and many other writers have hastily concluded that, in the fifteenth 
century, the English Parliament was altogether servile, because it recognized, 
without opposition, every successful usurper. That it was not servile, its con- 
duct on many occasions of inferior importance is sufficient to prove. But 
surely it was not strange that the majority of the nobles, and of the deputies 
chosen by the commons, should approve of revolutions which the nobles and 
commons had effected. The Parliament did not blindly follow the event ol 
war, but participated in those changes of public sentiment on which the event 
9f war depended, The legal check was secondary and auxiliary to tha*; which 


the nation held in its own hands. There have always been nonarchies in 
Asia in which the royal authority has been tempered by fundamental laws, 
though no lei;islative body exists to watch over them. The guarantee is the 
opinion of a community of which every individual is a soldier. Thus, the 
king of Cabiil, as Mr. Elphinstone informs us, cannot augment the land 
revenue, or interfere with the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals. 

In the Eur( ])ean kingdoms of this description there were representative 
assemblies. lUit it was not necessary, that those assemblies should meet very 
frequently, that they should interfere with all the operations of the executive 
government, that they should watch with jealousy, and resent with prompt 
indignation, every violation of the laws which the sovereign might commit. 
They were so strong that they might safely be careless. He was so feeble 
that he might safely be suffered to encroach- If he ventured too far, chastise- 
ment and rum were at hand. In fact, the people suffered more from his 
weakness thai> from his authority. The t3aanny of wealthy and powerful sub- 
jects was the characteristic evil of the times. The royal prerogatives were 
not even sufiit lent for the defence of property and the maintenance of police. 

The progrf&s of civilization introduced a great change. War became a 
science, and, «s a necessary consequence, a separate trade. The great body of 
the people grrw every day more reluctant to undergo the inconveniences of 
'military servi«.e, and better able to pay others for undergoing them. A new 
class of men, tlierefore, dependent on the Crown alone, natural enemies of 
those populai rights which are to them as the dew to the fleece of Gideon — 
slaves among Ireemen — freemen among slaves — grew into importance. That 
physical force, which in the dark ages, had belonged to the nobles and the 
commons, and iiad, far more than any charter or any assembly, been the safe- 
guard of the! I ,»rivileges, was transferred entire to the king. Monarchy gained 
in two ways. The sovereign was strengthened, the subjects weakened. The 
great mass of the population, destitute of all military discipline and organiza- 
tion, ceased to exercise any influence by force on political transactions. There 
have, indeed, during the last hundred and fifty years, been many popular in- 
surrections in F.urope ; but all have failed, except those in which the regular 
army has been induced to join the disaffected. 

Those legal checks which had been adequate to the purpose for which they 
were designed while the sovereign remained dependant on his subjects were 
now founu wanting. The dikes which had been sufficient while the waters 
were low weif not high enough to keep out the spring-tide. The deluge passed 
over them ; and according to the exquisite illustration of Butler, the formal 
boundaries which had excluded it, now held it in. The old constitutions fared 
like the old 5.1iields and coats of mail. They were the defences of a rude age ; 
.ind they did well enough against the weapons of a rude age. But new and 
n ore formidable means of destruction were invented. The ancient panoply 
became useless ; and it was thrown aside to rust in lumber-rooms, or exhibited* 
only as part of an idle pageant. 

Thus absolute monarchy was established on the Continent. England 
escaped ; but she escaped very narrowly. Happily our insular situation, and' 
tl^.e pacific policy of James, rendered standing armies unnecessary here, till 
they had been for some time kept up in the neighbouring kingdoms. Our 
public liien had, therefore, an opportunity of watching the effects produced by 
this momentous change in form of governments which bore a close analogy to 
that established in England. Everywhere they saw the power of the mon- 
arch increasing, the resistance of assemblies which were no longer supported 
by a national force gradually becoming more and more feeble, and at 1 ength 
ftltogether ceasing, The friends and the enemies of liberty perceived "R-ith 


eqnal clearness the causes of this general decay. It is a favourite theme of 
StraflTord. He advises the king to procure from the judges a recognition of 
his right to raise an army at his pleasure. *'This place well fortified," says 
he, " for ever vindicates the monarchy at home from under the conditions and 
restraints of subjects." We firmly believe that he was in the right. Nay ; 
we believe that, even if no deliberate scheme of arbitrary government had 
been formed by the sovereign and his ministers, there was great reason to 
apprehend a natural extinction of the Constitution. If, for example, Charles 
had played the part of Gustavus Adolphus — if he had carried on a popular 
war for the defence of the Protestant cause in Germany — if he had gratified 
the national pride by a series of victories — if he had formed an army of forty 
or fifty thousand devoted soldiers, — we do not see what chance the nation 
would have had of escaping from despotism. The judges would have given 
as strong a decision in favour of Camp-money as they gave in favour of Ship- 
money. If they had scrupled it would have made little difference. An indi- 
vidual who resisted would have been treated as Charles treated Eliot, and as 
Strafford wished to treat Hampden. The Parliament might have been sum- 
moned once in twenty years, to congratulate a king on his accession, or to 
give soleoanity to some great measure of state. Such had been the fate of 
legislative as.-,emblies as powerful, as much respeciea, as iai^'ii-:>piaLea, as mc 
English Lords and Commons. 

-The two Houses, surrounded by the ruins of so many free constitutions 
overthrown or sapped by the new military system, were required to intrust 
the command of an army, and the conduct of the Irish war to a king who had 
proposed to himself the destruction of liberty as the great end of his policy. 
We are decidedly of opinion that it would have been fatal to comply. Many 
of those who took the side of the king on this question would have cursed 
their own loyalty, if they had seen him return from wai at the head of twenty 
thousand troops, accustomed to carnage and free quarters in Ireland. 

We think, with Mr. Hallam, that many of the Royalist nobility and gentry 
were true friends to the. Constitution, and that, but for the solemn protesta- 
tions by which the king bound himself to govern according to the law for 
the future, they never would have joined his standard. But surely they 
underrated the public danger. Falkland is commonly selected as the most 
respectable specimen of this class. He was indeed a man of great talents 
and of great virtues ; but, we apprehend, infinitely too fastidious for public 
life. He did not perceive that, in such times as those on which his lot had 
fallen, the duty of a statesman is to choose the better cause and to stand by 
it, in spite of those excesses by which every cause, however good in itself, 
will be disgraced. The present evil always seemed to him the worst. He 
was always going backward and forward ; but it should be remembered to 
his honour that it was always from the stronger to the weaker side that he ' 
deserted. While Charles was oppressing the people, Falkland was a resolute 
champion of liberty. He attacked Strafford. He even concurred in strong 
measures against Episcopacy. But the violence of his party annoyed him, 
and drove him to the other party, to be equally annoyed there. Dreading 
the success of the cause which he had espoused, sickened by the courtiers of 
Oxford, as he had been sickened by the patriots of Westminster, yet bound 
by honour not to abandon them, he pined away, neglected his person, wen*- 
about moaning for peace, and at last rushed desperately on death, as the best 
refuge in such miserable times. If he had lived through the scenes that fol- 
lowed, we have little doubt that he would have condemned himself to share 
<he exile j^nd beggary of the royal family ; that he would then have returned 
to oppose all their measures ; that he would have been §ent to the Tower by 


the Commons as a disbeliever in the Popish Plot, and by the king as an 
accomplice in the Rye-House Plot ; and that, if he had escaped being hanged, 
first by Scroggs, and tlien by Jefferies, he would, after manfully opposing 
James II. through his whole reign, have been seized with a fit of compassion 
at the very moment of the Revolution, have voted for a regency, and died a 

We do not dispute that the royal party contained many excellent men and 
excellent citizens. But this we say, — that they did not discern those times. 
The peculiar glory of the Houses of Parliament is that, in the great plague 
and mortality of constitution, they took their stand between the living and 
the dead. At the very crisis of our destiny, at the very moment when the 
fate which had passed on every other nation was about to pass on England, 
they arrested the danger. 

Those who conceive that the parliamentary leaders were desirous merely 
to maintain the old constitution and those who represent them as conspiring 
to subvert it are equally in error. The old constitution, as we have attempted 
to show, could not be maintained. The progress of time, the increase of 
wealth, the diffusion of knowledge, the great change in the European system 
of war, rendered it impossible that any of the monarchies of the middle ages 
should continue to exist on the old footing. The prerogative of the Crown 
was constantly advancing. If the privileges of the people were to remain 
absolutely stationary, they would relatively retrograde. The monarchical 
and democratical parts of the government were placed in a situation not un- 
like that of the two brothers in the Fairy Queen, one of whom saw the soil 
of his inheritance daily washed avray by the tide and joined to that of his rival. 
The portions had at first been fairly meted out. By a natural and constant 
transfer, the one had been extended : the other had dwindled to nothing. A 
new partition, or a compensation, was necessary to restore the original equality. 

It was now absolutely necessary to violate the formal part of the consti- 
tution, in order to preserve its spirit. This might have been done, as it was 
done at the Revolution, by expelling the reigning family, and calling to the 
throne princes who, relying solely on an elective title, would find it necessary 
"wO respect the privileges and follow the advice of the assemblies to which they 
owed everything, to pass every bill which the Legislature strongly pressed 
upon them, and to fill the offices of state with men in whom it confided. But, 
as the two Houses did not choose to change the dynasty, it was necessary that 
they should do directly what at the Revolution..was done indirectly. Nothing 
is more usual than to hear it said that, if the Long Parliament had contented 
itself with making such a reform in the government under Charles as was after* 
wards made under William, it would have had the highest claim to national 
gratitude ; and that in its violence it overshot the mark. But how was it 
possible to make svich a settlement under Charles ? Charles was not, like 
William and the princes of the Hanoverian line, bound by community of 
interests and dangers to the two Houses. It was, therefore, necessary that he 
should be bound by treaty and statute. 

Mr. Hallam reprobates, in language which has a little surprised us, the 
ninet/ten propositions into which the Parliament digested its scheme. We 
will him whether he does not think that if James II. had remained in 
the island, and had been suffered, — as he probably would in that case have 
been suffered — to keep his crown, conditions to the full as hard would have 
been imposed on him ? On the other hand,- if the Long Parliament had pro- 
nounced the departure of Charles from London an abdication, and had called 
Essex or Northumberland to the throne, the new prince might have safely 
been suffered to reign without such restrictions. His situation would haY» 


been a sufficient guarantee. In the nineteen propositions we see very little f o 
blame except the articles against the Catholics. These, however, were in the 
spirit of that age ; and to some sturdy churchmen in our own they may seem 
to palliate even the good which the Long Parliament effected. The regu- 
lation with respect to new creations of peers is the only other article abc/at 
which we entertain any doubt. 

One of the propositions is that the judges shall hold their ofHcts during 
good behaviour. To this surely no exception will be taken. The right of 
directing the education and marriage of the princes was most properly claimed 
by the Parliament, on the same ground on which, after the Revolution, it 
was enacted that no king, on pain of forfeiting his throne, should espouse a 
' Papist. Unless we condemn the statesmen of the Revolution, who conceived 
that England could not safely be governed by a sovereign married to a 
Catholic queen, we can scarcely condemn the Long Parliament because, 
having a sovereign so situated, they thought it necessary to place him under 
strict restraints. The influence of Henrietta Maria had already been deeply 
felt in political affairs. In the regulation of her family, in the education and 
marriage of her children, it was still more likely to be felt. There might be 
another Catholic queen ; possibly, a Catholic king. . Little as we are disposed 
to join in the vulgar clamour on this subject, we think that such an event 
ought to be, if possible, averted j and this could only be done, if Charles 
was to be left on the throne, by placing his domestic arrangements under the 
control of Parliament. 

A veto on the appointment of ministers was demanded. But this veto Par- 
liament has virtually possessed ever since the Revolution. It is no doubt very 
far better that this power of the Legislature should be exercised as it is now 
exercised, when any great occasion calls for interference, than that at every 
change it should have to signify its approbation or disapprobation in form. 
But, unless a new family had been placed on the throne, we do not see how 
this power could have been exercised as it is now exercised. We again repeat 
that no restraints which could be imposed on the princes who reigned after the 
Revolution could have added to the security which their title afforded. They 
were compelled to court their Parliaments. But from Charles nothing was 
to be expected which was not set down in the bond. 

It was not stipulated that the king should give up his negati-ve on acts of 
Parliament. But the Commons had certainly shown a strong disposition to 
exact this security also. ** Such a doctrine," says Mr. Hallam, ** was in this 
country as repugnant to the whole history of our laws as it was incompatible 
with the subsistence of the monarchy in anything more than a nominal pre- 
eminence." Now this article has been as completly carried into effect by 
the Revolution as if it had been formally inserted in the Bill of Rights and 
the Act of Settlement. We are surprised, we confess, that Mr Hallam should 
attach so much importance to a prerogative which has not been exercised for 
a hundred and thirty years, which probably will never be exercised again, < 
and which can scarcely, in any conceivable case, be exercised for a salutary t 

Bii' the great security, the security without which every other would have 
been insufficient, was the power of the sword. This both parties thoroughly 
understood. The Parliament insisted on having the command of the militia 
and the direction of the Irish war. **By God, not for an hour I" exclaimed 
the king. "Keep the militia," said the queen, after the defeat of the royal 
patty; •* Keep the militia ; that will bring back everything." That, by the 
old constitution, no military authority was lodged in the Parliament, Mr. 
Hallam has clearly shown. That it is a species of power which ought not. 


to be permanently lodged in large and divided assemblies, must, we think, in 
fairness be conceded. Opposition, publicity, long discussion, frequent com- 
promise : these are the characteristics of the proceedings of such bodies. 
Unity, secrecy, decision, are the qualities which military arrangements require. 
This undoubtedly was an evil. But on the other hand, at such a crisis, to 
trust such a king with the very weapon which, in hands less dangerous, had 
destroyed so many free constitutions, would have been the extreme of 
rashness. The jealousy with which the oligarchy of Venice and the States of 
Holland regarded their generals and armies induced them perpetually to in- 
terfere in matters of which they were incompetent to judge. This policy 
secured them against military usurpation, but placed them under great disad- 
vantages in war. The uncontrolled power which the king of France exercised 
over his troops enabled him to conquer his enemies, but enabled him also to 
oppress his people. Was there any intermediate course? None, we confess, 
altogether free from objection. But, on the whole, we conceive that the best 
measure would have been that which the Parliament over and over proposed — 
that for a limited time the power of the sword should be left to the two 
Houses, and that it should revert to the Crown when the constitution should 
be firmly established, and when the new securities of freedom should be so far 
strengthened by prescription that it would be difficult to employ even a 
standing army for the purpose of subverting them. 

■ Mr. Hallam thinks that the dispute might easily have been compromised, 
by enacting that the king should have no power to keep a standing army on 
foot without the consent of Parliament. Pie reasons as if the question had 
been merely theoretical — and as if at that time no army had been wanted. 
"The kingdom," he says, *' might have well dispensed, in that age, with any 
military organization. " Novi% we think that Mr. Hallam overlooks the most 
important circumstance in the whole case. Ireland was at that moment in 
rebellion : and a great expedition would obviously be necessaiy to reduce 
that kingdom to obedience. The Houses had, therefore, to consider, not an 
abstract question of law, but an urgent practical question, directly involving 
the safety of the state. They had to consider the expediency of immediately 
giving a great army to a king who was at least as desirous to put down the 
Parliament of England as to conquer the insurgents of Ireland. 

Of course we do not mean to defend all their measures. Far from it. 
There never was a perfect man. It would, therefore, be the height of ab- 
surdity to expect a perfect party or a perfect assembly. For large bodies are 
far more likely to err than individuals. The passions are inflamed by sym- 
pathy ; the fear of punishment and the sense of shame are diminished by par- 
tition. Every day we see men do for their faction what they would die rather 
than do for themselves. 

No private quarrel ever happens, in which the right and the wrong are so 
exquisitely divided that all the right lies on one side, and all the wrong on the 
other. But here was a schism which separated a great nation into two parties. 
Of these parties, each was composed of many smaller parties. Each contained 
many members, who differed far less from their moderate opponents than 
(rom their violent allies. Each reckoned among its supporters many who 
were determined in their choice by some accident of birth, of connection, or 
of local situation. Each of them attracted to itself in multitudes those fierce 
and turbid spirits, to whom the clouds and whirlwinds of the political hurri- 
cane are the atmosphere of life. A party, like a camp, has its sutlers and 
camp-followers, as well as its soldiers. In its progress it collects round it a 
vast retinue, composed of people who thrive by its cuj'iom or are amused by 
Its display, who may be sometimes reckoned, in an ostentatious enuraera* 


tion, as forming part of it, but who give no aid to its operations, ai^i take 
but a languid interest in its success, who relax its discipline and dishonour 
its flag by their irregularities, and who, after a disaster, are perfectly ready 
to cut the throats and rifle the baggage of their companions. 

Thus it is in every great division ; and thus it was in our civil war. On 
both sides there was, undoubtedly, enough of crime and enough of error to 
disgust any man who did not reflect that the whole history of the species is 
,nothing but a comparison of crimes and errors. Misanthropy is not the 
temper which qualifies a man to act in great affairs, or to judge of them. 

"Of the Parliament," says Mr. Hallam, **it may be said, I think, v/ith 
not greater severity than truth, that scarce two or three public acts of justice, 
humanity, or generosity, and very few of political wisdom or courage, are 
recorded of them, from their quarrel with the king, to their expulsion by 
Cromwell." Those who may agree with us in the opinion which we have 
expressed as to the original demands of the Parliament will scarcely concur 
in this strong censure. The propositions which the Houses made at Oxford, 
at Uxbridge, and at Newcastle were in strict accordance with these demands. 
In the darkest period of the war they showed no disposition to concede •any 
vital principle. In the fulness of their success they showed no disposition to 
encroach beyond these limits. In this respect we cannot but think that they 
showed justice and generosity, as well as political wisdom and courage. 

The Parliament was certainly far from faultless. We fully agree with Mr. 
Hallam in reprobating their treatment of Laud. For the individual, indeed, 
we entertain a more unmitigated contempt than for any other character in 
our history. The fondness with which a portion of the Church regards his 
memory can be compared only to that perversity of affection which sometimes 
leads a mother to select the monster or the idiot of the family as the object of 
her especial favour. Mr. Hallam has incidentally observed, that, in the cor- 
respondence of Laud with Strafford there are no indications of a sense of duty 
towards God or man. The aamirers of the archbishop have, in consequence, 
inflicted upon the public a crowd of extracts designed to prove the contrary. 
Now, in all those passages, we see nothing which a prelate as wicked as Pope 
Alexander or Cardinal Dubois might not, have written. They indicate no 
sense of duty to God or man, but simply a strong interest in the prosperity and 
dignity of the order to which the writer belonged j an interest which, when 
kept within certain limits, does not deserve censure, but which can never be 
considered as a virtue. Laud is anxious to accommodate satisfactorily the 
disputes in the University of Dublin. He regrets to hear that a church is 
used as a stable and that the benefices of Ireland are very poor. He is desi- 
rous that, however small a congregation may be, service should be regularly 
performed. He expresses a wish that the judges of the court before which 
questions of tithe are generally brought should be selected with a view to the 
interest of the clern^y. All this may be very proper ; and it may be very proper 
that an alderman should stand up for the tolls of his borough, and an East 
India director for the charter of his company. But it is ridiculous to say that 
these things indicate piety and benevolence. No primate, though he were 
the most abandoned of mankind, could wish to see the body with the conse- 
quence of which his own consequence was identical degraded in the public 
estimation by internal dissensions, by the ruinous state of its edifices, and 
by the slovenly performance of its rites. We willingly acknowledge that 
the particular letters in question have very little harm in them ; a compliment 
which cannot often be paid either to the writings or to the actions of Laud. 

Bad as the archbishop was, however, he was not a traitor within the statute. 
Nor was he by any means so foriaidable as to be a proper subject for a 


retrospective ordinance of the Legislature. His mind had not expansion 
enough to comprehend a great scheme, good or bad. His oppressive acts 
were not, like those of the Earl of Strafford, parts of an extensive system. 
They were the luxuries in which a mean and irritable disposition indulges 
itself from day to day — the excesses natural to a little mind in a great place. 
The severest punishment which the two Houses could have inflicted on hhn 
would have been to set him at liberty and send him to Oxford. There he 
might have stayed, tortured by his own diabolical temper, hungering for Pmi- 
tans to pillory and mangle, plaguing the Cavaliers, for want of somebody else 
to plague, with his peevishness and absurdity, performing grimaces and antics 
in the cathedral, continuing that incomparable diary, which we never see with- 
out forgetting the vices of his heart in the abject imbecility of his intellect, 
minuting down his dreams, counting the drops of blood which fell from his 
nose, watching the direction of the salt, and listening for the note of the 
screech-owls. Contemptuous mercy was the only vengeance which it became 
the Parliament to take on such a ridiculous old bigot. 

The Houses, it must be acknowledged, committed great en-ors in the con- 
duct of the war, or rather one great error, which brought their affairs into a 
condition requiring the most perilous expedients. The Parliamentary leaders 
of what may be called the first generation, Essex, Manchester, Northumber- 
land, Hollis, even Pym — all the most eminent men, in short, Hampden 
•excepted, were inclined to half measures. They dreaded a decisive victory 
almost as much as a decisive overthrow. They wished to bring the king into 
a situation which might render it necessary for him to grant their just and 
wise demands, but not to subvert the Constitution or to change the dynasty. 
They were afraid of serving the purposes of those fierce and determined 
enemies of monarchy who now began to show themselves in the lower ranks of 
the party. The war was, therefore, conducted in a languid and inefficient 
manner. A resolute leader might have brought it to a close in a month. At 
the end of thcie campaigns, however, the event was still dubious ; and that it 
had not been decidedly unfavourable to the cause of liberty was principally 
owing to the skill and energy which the more violent Roundheads had displayed 
in subordinate situations. The conduct of Fairfax and Cromwell at Marston 
had exhibited, a remarkable contrast to that of Essex at Edgehill, and to that 
of Waller at Lansdowne. 

If there be any truth established by the universal experience of nations^ it is 
this, — that to carry the spirit of peace into war is a weak and- cruel policy. 
The time for negociation is the time for deliberation and delay. But when an 
extreme case calls for that remedy which is in its own nature most violent, and 
which, in such cases, is a remedy only because it is violent, it is idle to tliink 
of mitigating and diluting. Languid war can do nothing which negociation or 
submission will not do better : and to act on any other principle is, not to save 
blood and money, but to squander them. 

This the Parliamentary leaders found. The third year of hostilities was 
drawing to a close ; and they had not conquered the king. They had not ob- 
tained even those advantages which they had expected from a policy obviously 
erroneous in a military point of view. They had wished to husband their 
resourws. They now found that in enterprises like theirs parsimony is the 
worst profusion. They had hoped to effect a reconciliation. The event 
taught them that the best way to conciliate is to bring the work of destruction 
to a speedy termination. By their moderation many lives and much property 
had been wasted. The angry passions which, if the contest had been short, 
would have died away almost as soon as they appeared, had fixed themselves 
in the fisrm of deep and lasting hatred. A military caste had grown up. 


Those who had been induced to take up arms by the patriotic feelinf^s of 
citizens had begun to entertain the professional feelings of soldiers. Above all, 
the leaders of the party had forfeited its confidence. If they had, by their 
valour and abilities, gained a complete victory, their influence might have been 
iifficient to prevent their associates from abusing it. It was now necessary to 
choose more resolute and uncompromising commanders. Unhappily the 
illustrious man who alone united in himself all the talents and virtues which 
the crisis required, who alone could have saved his country from the present 
dangers without plunging her into others, who alone could have united all the 
friends of liberty in obedience to his commanding genius and his venerable 
name, was no more. Something might still be done. The Houses might 
still avert that worst of all evils, the triumphant return of an imperious and 
unprincipled master. They might still preserve London from all the horrors 
of rapine, massacre, and lust. But their hopes of a victory as spotless as their 
cause, — of a reconciliation which might knit together the hearts of all honest 
Englishmen for the defence of the public good, — of durable tranquillity,— of 
temperate freedom, were buried in the grave of Hampden. 

The self-denying ordinance was passed, and the army was remodelled. 
These measures were undoubtedly full of danger. But all that was left to the 
Parliainent was to take the less of two dangers. And we think that, even if 
they could have accurately foreseen all that followed, their decision ought to 
have been the same. Under any circumstances, we should have preferred 
Cromwell to Charles. But there could be no comparison between Cromwell 
and Charles victorious, — Charles restored, Charles enabled to feed fat all the 
hungry grudges of his smiling rancour and his cringing pride. The next visit 
of his majesty to his faithful Commons would have been more serious than that 
with which he last honoured them ; more serious than that .which their own 
general paid them some years after. The king would scarce have been con- 
tent with praying that the Lord would deliver him from Vane, and collaring 
Martin. If, by fatal mismanagement, nothing was left to England but a choice 
of tyrants, the last tyrant whom she should have chosen was Charles. 

From the apprehension of this worst evil the Houses were soon delivered by 
their new leaders. The armies of Charles were everywhere routed, his fast- 
nesses stormed, his party humbled and subjugated. The king himself fell into 
the hands of the Parliament ; and both the king and the Parliament soon fell 
into the hands of the army. The fate of both the captives was the same. Both 
were treated alternately with respect and with insult. At length the natural life 
of one and the political life of the other were terminated by violence ; and the 
power for which both had struggled was united in a single hand. Men 
naturally sympathize with the calamities of individuals ; but they are inclined 
to lool( on a fallen party with contempt rather than with pity. Thus mis- 
fortuni turned the greatest of Parliaments into the despised Rump, and the 
worst of kings into the Blessed Martyr. 

Mr. Hallam decidedly condemns the execution of Charles ; and in all that 
he says on that subject we heartily agree. We fully concur with him in thinking 
that a great social schism, such as the civil war, is not to be confounded with 
an ordinary treason, and that the vanquished ought to be treated according to 
tlie rules, not of municipal, but of international law. In this case the distinc- 
tion is of the less importance, because both international and municipal law 
tirere in favour of Charles. He was a prisoner of war by the former, a king 
by the latter. By neither was he a traitor. If he had been successful, and 
had put his leading opponents to death, he would have deserved severe censure ; 
and this without reference to the justice or injustice of his cause. Yet the 
opponents of Charles, it must be admitted, were technically guilty of treason. 


He might have sent them to the scaffold without violating any established 
principle of jurisprudence. He would not have been compelled to ove^um 
the whole Constitution in order to reach them. Here his own case dl.fered 
widely from theirs. Not only was his condemnation in itself a measure which 
only the strongest necessity could vindicate ; but it could not be procured with- 
out taking several previous steps every one of which would have required the 
strongest necessity to vindicate it. It could not be procured without dissolving 
the government by military force, without establishing precedents of the most 
dangerous description, without creating difficulties which the next ten years 
,'1 v/ere spent in removing, without pulling down institutions which it soon became 
' necessary to reconstruct, and setting up others which almost every man was 
soon impatient to destroy. It was necessary to strike the House of Lords out 
of the Constitution, to exclude members of the House of Commons by force, to 
make a new crime, a new tribunal, a new mode of procedure. The whole 
legislative and judicial systems were trampled down for the purpose of taking 
a single head. Not only those parts of the Constitution which the Republicans 
were desirous to destroy, but those which they wished to retain and exalt, were 
deeply injured by these transactions. High Courts of Justice began to usurp 
the functions of juries. The remaining delegates of the people were soon 
driven from their seats by the same military violence which had enabled them 
to exclude their colleagues. 

If Charles had been the last of his line, there would have been an intelligible 
reason for putting him to death. But the blow which terminated his life at 
once transferred the allegiance of every Royalist to an heir, and an heir who 
was at liberty. To kill the individual was truly, under such circumstances, not 
to destroy, but to release the king. 

We detest the character of Charles ; but a man ought not to be removed by 
a law ex postfactoy even constitutionally procured, merely because he is detest- 
able. He must also be very dangerous. We can scarcely conceive that any 
danger which a state can apprehend from any individual could justify the 
violent measures which were necessary to procure a sentence against Charles. 
But in fact the danger amounted to nothing. There was indeed danger from 
the attachment of a large party to his office. But this danger his execution 
only increased. His personal influence was little indeed. He had lost the 
confidence of every party. Churchmen, Catholics, Presbyterians, Indepen- 
dents, his enemies, his friends, his tools, English, Scotch, Irish, all divisions 
and subdivisions of his people had been deceived by him. His most attached 
councillors turned aM-ay with shame and anguish from his false and hollow 
policy, plot ir.lertwined withpolt, mine sprung beneath mine, agents disowned, 
promises evaded, one pledge given in private, another in public. — "Oh, Mr. 
Secretary," says Clarendon, in a letter to Nicholas, "those stratagems have 
given me more sad hours than all the misfortunes in war which have befallen 
the king, and look like the effects of God's anger towards us." 

The abilities of Charles were not formidable. His taste in the fine arts was 
indeed exquisite. He was as good a writer and speaker as any modern 
sovereign has been. But he'was not fit for active life. In negociation he was 
always trying to dupe others, and duping only himself. As a soldier, he was 
feeble, dilatory, and miserably wanting, not in personal courage, but in the 
presence of mind which his station required. His delay at Gloucester saved 
the parliamentary party from destruction. At Naseby, in the very crisis of 
his fortune, his want of self-possession spread a fatal panic through his army. 
The story which Clarendon tells of that affair reminds us of the excuses by 
which Bessus and Bobadil explain their cudgellings. A Scotch nobleman, it 
leems, begged the kinrj XiO% to run \ipon his death, tpok hold of his tnd]e, aqd 


turned his horse round. No man who had much value for his life would have 
tried to perform tlie same friendly office on that day for Oliver Cromwell. 

One thing, and one alone, could make Charles dangerous, — a violent death. 
His tyranny could not break the high spirit of the English people. His arms 
could jiot conquer, his arts could not deceive them ; but his humiliation and 
his execution melted them into a generous compassion. Men wno die on a 
scaffold for political offences almost always die well. The eyes of thousands 
are fixed upon them. Enemies and admirers are watching their demeanour. 
Every tone of voice, every change of colour, is to go down to posterity. Escape 
is impossible. Supplication is vain. In such a situation pride and despair 
have often been known to nerve the weakest minds with fortitude adequate to 
the occasion. Charles died patiently and bravely : not more patiently or 
bravely, indeed, than any other victims of political rage ; not more patiently or 
bravely than his own judges, who were not only killed, but tortured ; or thai. 
Vane, who had always been considered as a timid man. However, his conduct 
during his trial and at his execution made a prodigious impression. His sub- 
jects began to love his memory as heartily as they had hated his person ; and 
posterity has estimated his character from his death rather than from his life. 

To represent Charles as a martyr in the cause of Episcopacy is absurd. 
Those who put him to death cared as little for the Assembly of Divines as 
for the Convocation, and would, in all probability, only have hated him the 
more if he had agreed to set up the Presbyterian discipline ; and in spite of 
the opinion of Mr. Hallam, we are inclined to think that the attachment of 
Charles to the Church of England was altogether political. Human nature is, 
indeed, so capricious that there m.ay be a single sensitive point in a conscience 
which everywhere else is callous. A man without truth or humanity may 
have some strange scruples about a trifle. There was one devout warrior 
in the royal camp whose piety bore a great resemblance to that which 
is ascribed to the king. We mean Colonel Turner. That gallant Cavalier 
was hanged, after the Restoiat ion, for a flagitious burglary. At the gallows 
he told the crowd that his mind received great consolation from one reflection : 
he had always taken off his hat when he went into a church. The character 
of Charles would scarcely rise in our estimation, if we believed that he was 
pricked in conscience after the manner of this worthy loy ilist, and that, while 
violating all the first rules of Christian morality, he was sincerely scrupulous 
about Church government. But we acquit him of such weakness. In 1641 he 
deliberately confirmed the Scotch Declaration, which stated that the govern- 
ment of the Church by archbishops and bishops was contrary to the Word of 
God. In 1645 he appears to have off^ered to set up Popery in Ireland. That 
9^ king who had established the Presbyterian religion in one kingdom, and who 
was willing to establish the Catholic religion in another, should have insur- 
mountable scruples about the ecclesiastical constitution of the third, is alto- 
gether incredible. He himself says in his letters that he looks on Episcopacy 
as a stronger support of monarchical power than even the army. From cans* _, 
which we have already considered, the Established Church had been, since the 
Reformation, the great bulwark of the prerogative. Charles wished, there- 
fore, to preserve it. He thought himself necessary both to the Parliament and 
to the arriy. He did not foresee, till too late, that, by paltering with the 
Presbytericins, he should put both them and himself into the power of a fiercer 
and more daring party. If he had foreseen it, we suspect that the royal blood 
which still cries to IT-javen, every thirtieth of January, for judgments only to 
be averted by salt-Tibh and egg-sauce, would never have been shed. One 
who h?Ld »w£lllowcd the Scotch Peclarjitiow WP^4 scarcely ?tr^i(i ^t th^ 


The death of Charles and the strong measures which led to it raised Crom- 
well to a height of power fatal to the infant Commonwealth. No men occupy 
so splendid a place in history as those who have founded monarchies on the 
ruins of republican institutions. Their glory, if not of the purest, is assured! 7 
of the most seductive and dazzling kind. In nations broken to the curb, in 
nations long accustomed to be transferred from one tyrant to another, ^ man 
without eminent qualities may easily gain supreme power. The defection of 
a troop of guards, a conspiracy of eunuchs, a popular tumult, might place an 
indolent senator or a brutal soldier on the throne of the Roman world. Similar 
revolutions have often occurred in the despotic states of Asia. But a com- 
munity which has heard the voice of truth and experienced the pleasures of 
liberty — in which the merits of statesmen and of systems are freely canvassed, 
—in which obedience is paid, not to persons, but to laws, — in which magis- 
trates are regarded, not as the lords, but as the servants of the public, — in which 
the excitement of a party is a necessary of life, — in which political warfare is 
reduced to a system of tactics ; — such a community is not easily reduced to 
servitude. Beasts of burden may easily be managed by a new master. But 
will the wild ass submit to the bonds ? Will the unicorn serve and abide by 
the crib ? Will leviathan hold out his nostrils to the hook ? The mythologi- 
cal conqueror of the East, whose enchantments reduced the wild beasts to the 
tameness of domestic cattle, and who harnessed lions and tigers to his chariot, 
is but an imperfect type of those extraordinary minds which have thrown a 
spell on the fierce spirits of nations unaccustomed to control, and have com- 
pelled raging factions to obey their reins and swell their triumph. The enter- 
prise, be it good or bad, is one which requires a truly great man. It demands 
courage, activity, energy, wisdom, firmness, conspicuous virtues, or vices so 
splendid and alluring as to resemble virtues. 

Those who have succeeded in this arduous undertaking form a very small 
and a very remarkable class. Parents of tyranny, but lieirs of freedom, kings 
among citizens, citizens among kings, they unite in themselves the characteris- 
tics of the system which springs from them, and of the system from which 
they have sprung. Ther reigns shine with a double light, the last and dearest 
rays of departing freedom mingled with the first and brightest glories of 
empire in its dawn. Their high qualities lend to despotism itself a charm 
drawn from the institutions under which they were formed, and which they 
have destroyed. They resemble Europeans who settle within the tropics, and 
carry thither the strength and the energetic habits acquired in regions more 
propitious to the constitution. They differ as widely from princes nursed in 
the purple of imperial cradles as the companions of Gama from their dwarfish 
and imbecile progeny, which, born in a climate unfavourable to its growth and 
beauty, degenerates more and more, at every descent, from the quafities of the 
original conquerors. 

In this class three men stand pre-eminent, Caesar, Cromwell, and Bona- 
parte. The highest place in this remarkable triumvirate belongs undoubtedly 
to Csesar. He united the talents of Bonaparte to those of Cromwell, and he 
possessed also what neither Cromwell nor Bonaparte possessed, learning, 
taste, wit, eloquence, the sentiments and the manners of an accomplished 

Between Cromwell and Napoleon Mr. Hallam has instituted a parallel 
scarcely less ingenious than that which Burke has drawn between Richard 
Coeur de Lion and Charles XII. of Sweden. In this parallel, however, 
and indeed throughout his work, we think that he hardly gives Cromwell fair 
measure. "Cromwell," says he, "far unlike his antitype, never showed any 
signs of a legislative mind, or any desire to place his renown on that noblesj; 


basis, the amelioration of social institutions." The difference in this respect, 
we conceive, was not in the characters of the men, but in the characters of 
the revolutions by means of which they rose to power. The civil war in 
England had been undertaken to defend and restore ; the republicans of France 
set themselves to destroy. In England the principles of the common law 
had never been disturbed, and most even of its forms had been held sacred. 
In France, the law and its ministers had been swept away togetlier. In 
France, therefore, legislation became the first business of the first settled 
government which rose on the ruins of the old system. The admirers of 
Inigo Jones have always maintained that his works are i:.ferior to those of 
Sir Christopher Wren, only because the great fire of London gave to the latter 
such a field for the display of his powers as no architect in the history of the 
world ever possessed. Similar allowance must be made for Cromwell. If he 
erected little that was new, it was because there had been no general devasta- 
tion to clear a space for him. As it was, he reformed the representative system 
in a most judicious manner. He rendered the administration of justice uniform 
throughout the "island. We will quote a passage from his speech to the Par- 
liament in September, 1656, which contains, we think, stronger indications of 
a legislative mind than are to be found in the whole range of orations delivered 
on such occasions before or since. 

** There is one general grievance in the nation. It is the law. . . . . I 
think, I may say it, I have as eminent judges in this land as have been had, or 
that the nation has had for these many years. Truly, I could be particular as 
to the executive part, to the administration ; but that would trouble you. But 
the truth of it is, there are wicked and abominable laws that will be in your 
power to alter. To hang a man for sixpence, threepence, I know not what — 
to hang for a trifle, and pardon murder, is in the ministration of the law 
through the ill framing of it. I have known in my experience abominable 
murders quitted ; and to see men lose their lives for petty matters ! This is 
a thing that God will reckon for ; and I wish it may not lie upon this nation 
a day longer than you have an opportunity to give a remedy \ and I hope I 
shall cheerfully join with you in it." 

Mr. Hallam truly says that, though it is impossible to rank Cromwell witfc 
Napoleon as a general, yet "his exploits were as much above the level of his 
contemporaries, and more the effects ot an original uneducated capacity." 
Bonaparte was trained in the best military schools ; the army which he led 
to Italy was one of the finest that ever existed. Cromwell passed his youth 
and the prime of his manhood in a civil situation, tie never looked on waj 
till ^c was more than forty years old. He had first to form himself, and theij 
to form his troops. Out of raw levies he created an army, the bravest and 
the best disciplined, the most orderly m peace, and the most terrible in war, 
that Europe had seen. He called this body into existence. He led it to con- 
quest. He never fought a battle without gaining a victory. He never gained 
a victory without annihilating the force opposed to him. Yet his triumphs 
were not the highest glory of his military system. The respect which his 
troops paid to property, their attachment to the laws and religion of their 
country, their submission to the civil power, their temperance, their intelli- 
gence, th«ir industry, are without parallel. It was after the Restoration that 
the spiri/'. which their great leader had infused into them was most signally 
disjjlayed. At the command of the established government, a government 
which had no means of enforcing obedience, fifty thousand soldiers, whose 
backs no eneniy had ever seen, either in domestic or in continental war, laid 
down their ai-ms, and retired into the mass of the people, thenceforward to be 
distinguished only by superior diligence, sobriety, and regularity in the pvw- 


suits of peace, from the other members of the community which they had 

In the general spirit and character of his administration^ we think Crom- 
well far superior to Napoleon. ** In civil government," says Mr. Hallam, 
"there can be no adequate parallel between one who had sucked only the 
dregs of a besotted fanaticism, and one to whom the stores of reason and 
philosophy were open." These expressions, it seems to us, convey the higlif st 
eulogium on our great countryman. Reason and philosophy did not teach 
the conqueror of Europe to command his passions, or to pursue, as a first 
object, the happiness of his people. They did not prevent him from risking 
his fame and his power in a frantic contest against the principles of human 
nature and the laws of the physical world, against the rage of the winter and 
the liberty of the sea. They did not exempt him from the influence of that 
most pernicious of superstitions, a presumptuous fatalism. They did not pre- 
serve him from the inebriation of prosperity, or restrain him from indecent 
querulousness in adversity. On the other hand, the fanaticism of Cromwell 
never urged him on impracticable undertakings, or confused his perception 
of the public good. Inferior to Bonaparte in invention, he was far superior 
to him in wisdom. The French Emperor is among conquerors what Voltaire 
is anfong writers, a miraculous child. His splendid genius was frequently 
clouded by fits of humour as absurdly perverse as those of the pet of the 
nursery, who quarrels with his food, and dashes his playthings to pieces. 
Cromwell was emphatically a man. He possessed, in an eminent degree, 
that masculine and full-grown robustness of mind, that equally diffused intel- 
lectual health, which, if our national partiality does not mislead us, has 
peculiarly characterised the g»-eat men of England. Never was any ruler so 
conspicuously born for sovereignty. The cup which has intoxicated almost 
all others sobered him. His spirit, restless from its buoyancy in a lower 
sphere, reposed in majestic placidity as soon as it had reached the level con- 
genial to it. He had nothing in common with that large class of men who 
distinguish themselves in lower posts, and whose incapacity becomes obvious 
as soon as the public voice summons them to take the lead. Kapidly as his for- 
tunes grew, his mind expanded more rapidly still. Insignificant as a private 
citizen, he was a great general ; he was a still greater prince. The manner of 
Napoleon was a theatrical compound, in which the coarseness of a revo- 
lutionary guard-room was blended with the ceremony of the old Court of 
Versailles. Cromwell, by the confession even of his enemies, exhibited in 
I his demeanour the simple and natural nobleness of a man neither ashamed of 
his origin nor vain of his elevation, of a man who had found his proper ||3laco 
in society, and who felt secure that he was competent to fill it Easy, even 
to familiarity, where his own dignity was concerned, he was punctilious only 
for his country. His own clr iracter he left to take care of itself ; he left it to 
be defended by his victories vn war and his reforms in peace. But he was a 
jealous and implacable guardian of the public honour. He suffered a crazy 
Quaker to insult him in the midst of Whitehall, and revenged himself only 
by liberating him and giving him a dinner. But he was prepared to risk the 
chances of a war to avenge the blood of a private Englishman. 

No sovereign ever carried to the throne so large a portion of the best 
qualities of the middling orders —so strong a sympathy with the feelings and 
interests of his people. He was sometimes driven to arbitrary measures ; 
but he had a high, stout, honest, English heart. Hence it was that he loved 
to surround his throne with such men as Hale and Blake. Hence it was 
that he allowed so large a share of political liberty to his subjects, and that, 
even when an opposition dangerous to his power and to his person almost 


compelled him to govern by the sword, he was still anxious to leave a germ 
from which, at a more favourable season, free institutions might spring. We 
firmly believe that, if his first Parliament had not commenced its debates by 
disputing his title, his government would have been as mild at home as it 
was energetic and able abroad. He was a soldier — he had risen by war. 
Had his ambition been of an impure or selfish kind, it would have been easy 
for him to plunge his country into continental hostilities on a large scale, and 
to dazzle the restless factions which he ruled, by the splendour of his vic- 
tories. Some of his enemies have sneeringly remarked, that in the successes 
obtained under his administration he had no personal share ; as if a man who 
had raised himself from obscurity to empire solely by his mihtary talents could 
have any unworthy reason for shrinking from military enterprise. This re- 
proach is his highest glory. In the success of the English navy he could 
have no selfish interest. Its triumphs added nothing to his fame; its increase 
added nothing to his means of overawing his enemies ; its great leader was 
not his friend. Yet he took a peculiar pleasure in encouraging that noble 
service which, of all the instruments employed by an English government, 
is the most impotent for mischief, and the most powerful for good. His 
administration was glorious, but with no_ vulgar glory. It was not one of 
those periods of overstrained and convulsive exertion which necessarily pro 
duce debility and languor. Its energy was natural, healthful, temperate.. He 
placed England at the head of the Protestant interest, and in the first rank of 
Christian powers. He taught every nation to value her friendship and to 
dread her enmity. But he did not squander her resources in a vain attempt 
to invest her with that supremacy which no power, in the modern system of 
Europe, can safely affect, or can long retain. 

This noble and sober wisdom had its reward. If he did not carry the 
banners of the Commonwealth in triumph to distant capitals, if he did not 
adorn Whitehall with the spoils of the 'Stadthouse and the Louvre, if he did 
not portion out Flanders and Germany into principalities for his kinsmen and 
his generals, he did not, on the other hand, see his country overrun by the 
armies of nations which his ambition had provoked. He did not drag out 
the last years of his life an exile and a prisoner, in an unhealthy climate and 
under an ungenerous gaoler, raging with the impotent desire of vengeance, 
and brooding over visions of departed glory. He went down to his grave in 
the fulness of power and fame ; and he left to his son an authority which any 
man of ordinary firmness and prudence would have retained. 

But for the weakness of that foolish Ishbosheth, the opinions which we 
have bden expressing would, we believe, now have formed the orthodox creed 
of good Englishmen. We might now be writing under the government of 
his Highness Oliver V. or Richard IV., Protector, by the Grace of God, 
of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the domi- 
nions thereto belonging. The form of the great founder of the dynasty, 
on horseback, as when he led the charge at Naseby, or on foot, as when he 
took the ra tee from the table of the Commons, would adorn our squares and 
overlook our public offices from Charing Cross ; and sermons in h=s praise 
would be duly preached on his lucky day, the third of September, by court- 
chaplains, guiltless of the abomination of the surplice. 

But, though his memory has not been taken under the patronage of any 
party, though every device has been used to blacken it, though to praise him 
would long have been a punishable crime, truth and merit at last prevail. 
Cowards who had trembled at the very sound of his name, tools of office who, 
like Downing, had been proud of the honour of lacqueying his coach, might 
insult him in loyal speeches and addresses. Venal poets might transfer to 


the king the same eulogies, little the worse for wear, which they had bestowed 
on the Protector. A fickle multitude might crowd to shout and PoofF round 
the gibbeted remains of the greatest prince and soldier of the age. But when 
the Dutch cannon startled an effeminate tyrant in his own palace, when the 
conquests which had been made by the armies of Cromwell were sold to 
pamper the harlots of Charles, when Englishmen were sent to fight under the 
banners of France against the independence of Europe and the Protestant 
religion, many honest hearts swelled in secret at the thought of one who had 
never suffered his country to be ill used by any but himself. It must indeed 
have been difficult for any Englishman to see the salaried Viceroy of France, 
at the most important crisis of his fate, sauntering through his harem, yawn- 
ing and talking nonsense over a despatch, or beslobbering his brother and his 
courtiers in a fit of maudlin affection,* without a respectful and tender remem- 
brance of him before. whose genius the young pride of Louis and the veteran 
craft of Mazarin had stood rebuked, who had humbled Spain on the land 
and Holland on the sea, and whose imperial voice had arrested the victorious 
arms of Sweden and the persecuting fires of Rome. Even to the present day 
his character, though constantly attacked, and scarcely ever defended, is 
popular with the g)-eat body of our countrymen. 

The most questionable act of his life was the execution of Charles. We 
have already strongly condemned that proceeding ; but we by no means con- 
sider it as one which attaches any peculiar stigma of infamy to the names of 
those who participated in it. It was an unjust and injudicious display of 
violent party spirit ; but it was not a cruel or perfidious measure. It had all 
those features which distinguish the errors of magnanimous and intrepid spirits 
from base and malignant crimes. 

We cannot quit this interesting topic without a few words on a transaction 
which Mr. Hallam has made the subject of a severe accusation against Crom- 
well ; and which has been made by others the subject of a severe accusation 
against Mr. Hallam. We conceive that both the Protector and the historian 
may be vindicated. Mr, Hallam tells us that Cromwell sold fifty English 
gentlemen as slaves in Barbadoes. For making this statement he has been 
charged with two high literary crimes. The first accusation is, that, from his 
violent prejudice against Oliver, he has calumniated him falsely. The second, 
preferred by the same accuser, is, that from his violent fondness for the same 
Oliver, he has hidden his calumnies against him, at the fag end of a note, 
instead of putting them into the text. Both these imputations cannot possibly 
be true, and it happens that neither is so. His censors will find, when they 
take the trouble to read his book, that the story is mentioned in the text as 
v/ell as in the notes ; and they will also find, when they take the trouble to 
read some other books with which speculators on English history ought to be 
acquainted, that the story is true. If there could have been any doubt about 
the matter, Burton's Diary must have set it a rest. But, in truth, there was 
abundant and superabundant evidence, before the appearance of that valuable 
publication. Not to mention the authority to which Mr. Hallam refers, and 
which alone is perfectly satisfactory, there is Slingsby Bethel's account of the 
proceedings of Richard Cromwell's Parliament, published immediately after 
lis dissolution. He was a member ; he must, therefore, have known what 
happened: and violent as his prejudices were, he never could have been such 
an idiot as to state positive falsehoods with respect to public transactions 
v/hich had taken place only a few days before. 

It will not be quite so easy to defend Cromwell against Mr. Hallam as to 

* These particulars, aad insmy more of the same kind, ate recorded by Pcpy«. 


■ fi . . — — — — '■ 

defend Mr. Hallam against those who "attack his history. But the story is 
certainly by no means so bad as he takes it to be. In the first place, this 
slavery was merely the compulsory labour to which every transported convict 
is liable. Nobody acquainted with the language of the last century can be 
ignorant that such convicts were generally termed slaves, until discussions 
about another species of slavery, far too miserable and altogether unmerited, 
rendered the word too odious to be applied even to felons of English origin. 
These persons enjoyed the protection of the law during the term of their , 
service, which was only five years. The punishment of tranportation has ^ 
been inflicted, by almost every government that England has ever had, for ! 
political offences. After Monmouth's insurrection, and after the rebellions in 
1 715 and 1745, great numbers of the prisoners were sent to America. TJiese i 
considerations ought, we think, to free Cromwell from the imputatioTi^ of 
having inflicted on his enemies any punishment wh*<ch in itself is of a shocking 
and atrocious character. 

To transport fifty men, however, without a trial is bad enough. But let us 
consider, in the $rst place, that some of these men were taken in arms against 
the government, and that it is not clear that they were not all so taken. In 
that case Cromwell or his officers might, according to the usage of those 
unhappy times, have put them to the sword, or turned them over to the pro- 
vost-marshal at once. This, we allow, is not a complete vindication ; for 
execution by martial law ought never to take place but under circumstances 
which admit of no delay ; and if there is time to transport men, there is time 
to try them. 

The defenders of the measure stated in the House of Commons that the 
persons thus transported not only consented to go, but went with remarkable 
cheerfulness. By this we suppose it is to be understood, not that they had 
any violent desire to be bound apprentices in Barbadoes, but that they considered 
themselves as, on the whole, fortunate and leniently treated, in the situation 
in which they had placed themselves. 

When these considerations are fairly estimated, it must, we think, be allowed 
that this selling into slavery was not, as .it seems at first sight, a barbarous 
outrage, unprecedented in our annals, but merely a very arbitrary proceeding, 
which, like most of the arbitrary proceedings of Cromwell, was rather a 
violation of positive law than of any great principle of justice and mercy. 
When Mr. Hallam, declares it to have been more oppressive than any measures 
of Charles II., he forgets, we imagine, that under the reign of that 
prince, and during the administration of Lord Clarendon, many of the Round- 
heads were, without any trial, imprisoned at a distance from England, merely 
in order to remove them beyond the reach of the great liberating writ of our 
law. But, in fact, it is not fair to compare the cases. The government of ^ 
Charles was perfectly secure. The *' res dura et regni novitas " is the great 
apology of Cromwell. ^ 

From the moment that Cromwell is dead and buried, we go on in almost 
perfect harmony with Mr. Hallam to the end of his book. The times which 
followed the Restoration peculiarly require that unsparing impartiality which 
is his most distinguishing virtue. No part of our history, during the last 
three centuries, presents a spectacle of such general dreariness. The whole 
breed of our statesmen seems to have degenerated ; and their moral and intel- 
lectual littleness strikes us with the more disgust because we see it placed in 
immediate contrast with the high and majestic qualities of the race which they 
succeeded. In the great civil war even the bad cause had been rendered 
respectable and amiable by the purity and elevation of mind which many dt 
Its friends displayed. Under Cnarles II. the best and noblest of ends W«8 


disgraced by means the most cruel and sordid. The rage of faction succeeded 
to the love of liberty. Loyalty died away into servility. We look in vain 
among the leading politicians of either side for steadiness of piinciple, or even 
for that vulgar fidelity to party which, in our time, it is esteemed infamous to 
violate. The inconsistency, perfidy, and baseness which the leaders con- 
stantly practised, which their followers defended, and which the great body 
of the people regarded, as it seems, with little disapprobation, appear in the 
present age almost incredible. In the age of Charles I. they would, we 
believe, have excited as much astonishment. 

Man, however, is always the same. And when so marked a difference 
appears between two generations it is certain that the solution may be found 
in their respective circumstances. The principal statesmen of the reign of 
Charles II. were trained during the civil war and the revolutions which 
followed it. Such a period is eminently favourable to the growth of quick 
and active talents. It forms a class of men, shrewd, vigilant, inventive ; of 
men whose dexterity triumphs over the most perplexing combinations of 
circumstances, whose presaging instinct no sign of the times, no incipient 
change of public feelings, can elude. But it is an unpropitious season for the 
firm and masculine virtues. The statesman who enters on his career at such 
a time can form no permanent connections, can make no accurate observa- 
tions on the higher parts of political science. Before he can attach himself to 
a party, it is scattered. Before he can study the nature of a government, it is 
overturned. The oath of abjuration comes close on the oath of allegiance. 
The association which was subscribed yesterday is burned by the hangman 
to-day. In the midst of the constant eddy and charge self-preservation 
becomes the first object of the adventurer. It is a task too hard for the 
strongest head to keep itself from becoming giddy in the eternal whirl. Public 
spirit is out of the question. A laxity of principle, without which no public 
man can be eminent or even safe, becomes too common to be scandalous ; and 
the whole nation looks coolly on instances of apostasy which would startle the 
foulest turncoat of more settled times. 

The history of France since the Revolution affords some striking illustrations 
of these remarks. The same man was minister of the Republic, of Bonaparte, 
of Louis XVIII., of Bonaparte again after his return from Elba, of Louis 
again after his return from Ghent. Yet all these manifold treasons by no 
means seemed to destroy his influence, or even to fix any peculiar stain of 
infamy on his character. We, to be sure, did not know what to make of him ; 
but his countrymen did not seem to be shocked ; and in truth they had little 
right to be shocked : for there was scarcely one Frenchman, distinguished in 
the state or in the army, who had not, according to the best of his talents and 
opportunities, emulated the example. It was natural, too, that this should 
be the case. The rapidity and violence with which change followed change 
in the affairs of France towards the close of the last century had taken away 
the reproach of inconsistency, unfixed the principles of public men, and pro- 
duced in many minds a general scepticism and indifference about principles of 

No Englishman who has studied attentively the reign of Charles II. will 
think himself entitled to indulge in any feelings of national superiority over 
the Diciionnaire des Girouettes. Shaftesbury was surely a far less respectable 
man than Talleyrand j and it would be injustice even to Fouche to compare 
him with Lauderdale. Nothing, indeed, can more clearly show how low the 
standard of political morality had fallen in this country than the fortimes of 
the men whom we have named. The government wanted a ruffian to carry 
on the most atrocious system of misgovernment with which any nation was 


ever cursed, to extirpate Presbyterianism by fire and sword, the drowning of 
women, the frightful torture of the boot. And they found him among the 
chiefs of the rebellion and the subscribers of the Covenant. The opposition 
looked for a chief to head them in the most desperate attacks ever made, 
under the forms of the Constitution, on any English administration : and they 
selected the minister who had the deepest share in the worst parts of that ad- 
ministration, — the soul of the Cabal, — the counsellor who had shut up the 
exchequer and urged on the Dutch war. The whole political drama was of 
the same cast. No unity of plan, no decent propriety of character and cos- 
tume, could be found in the wild and monstrous harlequinade. The whole 
was made up of extravagant transformations and burlesque contrasts ; Atheists 
turned Puritans ; Puritans turned Atheists ; Republicans defending the divine 
right of kings ; prostitute courtiers clamouring for the liberties of the people ; 
judges inflaming the rage of mobs; patriots pocketing bribes from foreign 
powers ; a Popish prince torturing Presbyterians into Episcopacy in one part 
of the island ; Presbyterians cutting off the heads of Popish noblemen and 
gentlemen in the other. Public opinion has its natural flux and reflux. Aftei 
a violent burst, there is commonly a reaction. But vicissitudes so extraor- 
dinary as those which mark the reign of Charles II. can only be explained by 
supposing an utter want of principle in the political world. On neither side 
was there fidelity enough to face a reverse. Those honourable retreats from 
power which, in later days, parties have often made, with loss, but still in 
good order, in firm union, with unbroken spirit and formidable means of an- 
noyance, were utterly unknown. As soon as a check took place a total route 
followed : arms and colours were thrown away. The vanquished troops, like 
the Italian mercenaries of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, enlisted, on 
the very field of battle, in the service of the conquerors. In a nation proud 
of its sturdy justice and plain good sense, no party could be found to take a 
firm middle stand between the worst of oppositions and the worst of courts. 
When, on charges as wild as Mother Goose's tales, on the testimony of 
wretches who proclaimed themselves to be spies and traitors, and whom every- 
oddy now believes to have been also liars and murderers, the ofial of gaols and 
brothels, the leavings of the hangman's whip and shears. Catholics guilty of 
nothing but their religion were led like sheep to the Protestant shambles,. 
where were the loyal Tory gentry and the passively obedient clergy ? And 
where, when the time of retribution came, when laws were strained and juries 
packed to destroy the leaders of the Whigs, when charters were invaded, 
when Jefferies and Kirke were making Somersetshire what Lauderdale and 
Graham had made Scotland, where were the ten thousand brisk boys of 
Shaftesbury, the members of ignoramus juries, the wearers of the Polish 
medal ? All-powerful to destroy others, unable to save themselves, the mem- 
bers of the two parties oppressed and were oppressed, murdered and were 
murdered, in their turn. No lucid interval occurred between the frantic 
paroxysms of two contradictory illusions. 

To the frequent changes of the government during the twenty years which 
had preceded the Revolution this unsteadiness is, in a great measure, to be 
attributed. Other causes had also been at work. Even if the country had 
been governed by the house of Cromwell or by the remains of the Long Par- 
liament, the extreme austerity of the Puritans would necessarily have produced 
a revulsion. Towards the close of the Protectorate many signs indicated that 
a time of licence was at hand. But the restoration of Charles II. rendered 
the change wonderfully rapid and violent Profligacy becaipe a test of ortho- 
doxy and loyalty, a qualification for rank and oflfice. A deep and general 
taint infected the morals of the most influential classes, and spread itself 


through every province of letters. Poetry inflamed the passions ; philosophy 
undermined the principles ; divinity itself, inculcating an abject reverence for 
the Court, gave additional effect to its licentious example. We look in vain 
for those qualities which lend a charm to the errors of high and ardent natures, 
for the generosity, the tenderness, the chivalrous delicacy, which ennoble appe- 
tites into passions, and impart to vice itself a Jjortion of the majesty of virtue. 
The excesses of that age remind us of the humours of a gang of footpads, 
revelling with their favourite beauties at a flash-house. In the fashionable 
libertinism there is a hard, cold ferocity, an impudence, a lowness, a dirtiness, 
which can be paralleled only among the heroes and heroines of that t.ithy 
and heartless literature which encouraged it. One nobleman of great abilities 
wanders about as a Merry-Andrew. Another harangues the mob stark 
naked from a window. A third lays an ambush to cudgel a man who has 
offended him, A knot of gentlemen of high rank and influence combine to 
push their fortunes at Court by circulating stories intended to ruin an innocent 
girl, stories which had no foundation, and which, if they had been true, would 
never have passed the lips of a man of honour.* A dead child is found in the 
palace, the offspring of some maid of honour by some courtier, or perhaps by 
Charles himself. The whole flight of panders and buffoons pounce upon it, and 
carry it in triumph to the royal laboratory, where his majesty, after a brutal 
jest, dissects it for the amusement of the assembly, and probably of its father 
among the rest. The favourite Duchess stamps about Whitehall, cursing and 
swearing. The ministers employ their time at the council-board in making 
mouths at each other and taking off each other's gestures for the amusement 
of the king. The Peers at a conference begin to pommel each other and to tear 
collars and periwigs. A speaker in the House of Commons gives offence to 
the Court. He is waylaid by a gang of bullies, and his nose is cut to the bone. 
This ignominious dissoluteness, or rather, if we may venture to designate it 
by the only proper word, blackguardism of feeling and manners, could not 
but spread from private to public life. The cynical sneers, the epicurean 
sophistry, which had driven honour and virtue from one part of the character, ' 
extended their influence over every other. The second generation of the 
statesmen of this reign were worthy pupils of the schools in which they had been 
trained, of the gaming-table of Grammont, and the tiring-room of Nell. In 
no other age could such a trifler as Buckingham have exercised any political 
influence. In no other age could the path to power and glory have been 
thrown open to the manifold infamies of Churchill. 

The history of that celebrated man shows, more clearly, perhaps, than that 
»f any other individual, the malignity and extent of the corruption which had 
eaten intothe heart of the public morality. An English gentleman of family 
attaches himself to a prince who has seduced his sister, and. accepts rank and 
wealth as the price of her shame and his own. He then repays by ingratitude 
the benefits which he has purchased by ignominy, betrays his patron in a 
manner which the best cause cannot excuse, and commits an act, not only of 
private treachery, but of distinct military desertion. To his conduct at the 
crisis of the fate of James no service in modern times has, as far as we re- 
member, furnished any parallel. The conduct of Ney, scandalous enough ni 
doubt, is the very fastidiousness of honour in comparison of it. The perfidj 
of Arnold approaches it most nearly. In our age and country no talents, no 
services, no party attachments, could bear any man up under such mountains 
of infamy. Yet, even before Churchill had performed those great actions 

* The manner in which Hamilton relates the circumstances of the atrocious v?ot againx 
poor Anne Hyde, is, if possible, more disgraceful to the Cour^ of which he may be constdeied 
M a specimen^ than the plot its<ilf. 


which in some degree redeem his character with posterity, the load lay very 
lightly on him. He had others in abundance to keep him in countenance. 
Godolphin, Orford, Danby, the trimmer Halifax, the renegade Sunderland, 
v/ere all men of the same class. 

Where such was the political morality of the noble and the wealthy, it may 
easily be conceived that those professions which, even in the best times, are 
peculiarly liable to con-uption, were in a frightful state. Such a bench and 
such a bar England has never seen. Jones, Scroggs, Jefferies, North, Wright, 
Sawyer, Williams, Shower, are to this day the spots and blemishes of our legal 
chronicles. Differing in constitution and in situation, — whether blusteringor 
cringing, — whether persecuting Protestants or Catholics — they were equally 
unprincipled and inhuman. The part which the Church played.was not equally 
atrocious; but it must have been exquisitely diverting to a scoffer. Never 
were principles so loudly professed, and so flagrantly abandoned. The Royal 
prerogative had been magnified to the skies in theological works. The doc- 
trine of passive obedience had been preached from innumerable pulpits. The 
University of Oxford had sentenced the works of the most moderate constitu- 
tionalists to the flames. The accession of a Catholic king, the frightful cruel- 
ties committed in the west of England, never shook the steady loyalty of the 
clergy. But did they serve the king for naught ? He laid his hand on them, 
and they cursed him to his face. He touched the revenue of a college and the 
liberty of some prelates ; and the v/hole profession set up a yell worthy of 
Hugh Peters himself. Oxford sent its plate to an invader with more alacrity 
than she had shown when Charles I. requested it. Nothing was said about 
the wickedness of resistance till resistance had done its work, till the anointed 
vicegerent of Heaven had been driven away, and till it had become plain 
that he would never be restored, or would be restored at least under strict 
limitations. The clergy went ' back, it must be owned, to their old theory, 
as soon as they found that it would do them no harm. 

To , the general baseness and profligacy of the times Clarendon is prin- 
cipally indebted for his high reputation. He was, in every respect, a man 
unfit for his age, — at once too good for it and too bad for it. He seemed to 
Le one of y the ministers of Elizabeth, transplanted at once to a state of so- 
ciety widely different from that in which the abilities of such statesmen had 
been serviceable. In the sixteenth century the royal prerogative had scarcely 
been called in question. A minister who held it high was in no danger, so 
long as he used it well. That attachment to the Crown, that extreme jealousy 
of popular encroachments, that love, half religious, half political, for the 
Church, which, from the beginning of the Long Parliament, showed itself in . 
Clarendon, and which his suflerings, his long residence in France, and his 
high station in the Government served to strengthen, would, a hundred years 
earlier, have secured to him the favour of his sovereign without rendering -him 
odious to the people. His probity, his correctness in private life, his decency 
of deportment, and his general ability would not have misbecome a colleague 
of Walsingham and Burleigh. But, in the times on which he was cast, his 
errors and his virtues were alike out of place. He imprisoned men without 
trial. He was accused of raising unlawful contributions on the people for the 
support of the army. The abolition of the Triennial Act which ensured the 
ffequent holding of Parliaments was one of his favourite objects. He seems 
to have meditated the revival of the Star Chamber and the High Comnii.'^sion 
( >ourt. His zeal for the prerogative made him unpopular ; but it could not 

^ure to him the favour of a master far more desirous of ease and pleasure 

lianof power. Charles would rather have lived in exile and privacy, with 
i bundance of money, a crowd of mimics to amuse him, and a score of mis- 


tresses, than have purchased the absolute dominion of the world by the priva- 
tions and exertions to which Clarendon was constantly urging him. A coun- 
cillor wlio was always bringing him papers and giving him advice, and who 
stoutly refused to compliment Lady Castlemaine and to carry messages to Miss 
Stewart, soon became more baleful to him than ever Cromwell had been. 
Thus, considered by the people as an oppressor, by the Court as a censor, the 
minister fell from his high office with a ruin more violent and destructive than 
could ever have been his fate if he had either respected the principles of the 
Constitution or flattered the vices of the king. 

Mr. Hallam has formed, we think, a correct estimate of the character and 
administration of Clarendon. But he scarcely makes a sufficient allowance for 
the wear and tear which honesty almost necessarily sustains in the friction of 
political life, and which, in times so rough as those through which Clarendon 
passed, must be very considerable. When these are fairly estimated, we think 
that his integrity may be allowed to pass muster. A high-minded man he 
certainly was not, either in public or in private affairs. His own account of 
his conduct in the affair of his daughter is the most extraordinary passage in 
autobiography. We except notking even in the Confessions of Rousseau. 
Several writers have taken a perverted and absurd pride in representing them- 
selves as detestable ; but no other ever laboured hard to make himself despit^ 
able and ridiculous. In one important particular Clarendon showed as little 
regard to the honour of his country as he had shown to that of his family. He 
"accepted a subsidy from France for the relief of Portugal. But this method of 
obtaining money was afterwards practised to a much greater extent, and for 
objects much less respectable, both by the Court and by the Opposition. 

These pecuniary transactions are commonly considered as the most disgrace* 
ful part of the history of those times ; and they were, no doubt, highly repre- 
hensible. Yet, in justice to the Whigs and to Charles himself, we must admit 
that they were not so shameful or atrocious as at the present day they appear. 
The effect of violent animosities between parties has always been an indiffer- 
ence to the general welfare and honour of the State. A poUtician, where 
factions run high, is interested not for the whole people, but for his own sec- 
tion of it. The rest are, in his view, strangers, enemies, or rather pirates. 
The strongest aversion which he can feel to any foreign power is the ardour of 
friendship, when compared with the loathing which he entertains towards those 
domestic foes with whom he is cooped up in a narrow space, with whom he 
lives in a constant interchange of petty injuries and insults, and from whom, in 
the day of their success, he has to expect severities far beyond any that a con- 
,queror from a^iistant country would inflict. Thus, in Greece it was a point 
of honour for a man to leave his country and cleave to his party. No aristo- 
cratical citizen of Samos or Corcyra would have hesitated to call in the aid of 
!Laceda5mon. The multitude, on the contrary, looked to Athens. In the 
Italian States of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, from the same cause, 
no man was so much a Florentine or a Pisan as a Ghibeline or a Guelf. It 
may be doubted whether there was a single individual who would have scrupled 
lo raise his party from a state of depression by opening the gates of his native 
city to a French or an Arragonese force. The Reformation, dividing almost 
every European country into two parts, produced similar effects. The Catholic 
was too st-rong for the Englishman, the Huguenot for the Frenchman. The 
Protestant statesmen of Scotland and France accordingly called in the aid of 
Elizabeth ; and the Papists of the League brought a Spanish army into the very 
heart of France. The commotions to which the French Revolution gave rise 
wcxQ followed by tlie same conse(^uences. The Republicans in every part of 
Lmope were enger to see theannies of the NationaJ Convention and the Dircc- 


tory appear among them, and exulted in defeats which distressed and humbled 
those whom they considered as their worst enemies, their own rulers. The 
princes and nobles of France, on the other hand, did their utmc t to bring 
foreign invaders to Paris. A very short time has elapsed since the Apostolical 
party in Spain invoked, too successfully, the support of strangers. 

The great contest which raged in England during the seventeenth century 
and the earlier part of the eighteenth, extinguished, not indeed in the body of 
the people, but in those classes which were most actively engaged in politics, 
almost all national feelings. Charles II. and many of his courtiers had passed 
-% large part of their lives in banishment, serving in foreign armies, living on 
the bounty of foreign treasuries, soliciting foreign aid to re-establish monarchy 
in their native country. The oppressed Cavaliers in England constantly looked 
to France and Spain for deliverance and revenge. Clarendon censures the con- 
tinental governments with great bitterness for not interfering in our internal dis- 
sensions. During the Protectorate, not only the Royalists, but the disaffected oi 
all parties, appear to have been desirous of assistance from abroad. It is not 
strange, therefore> that, amidst the furious contests which followed the Restora- 
tion, the violence of party feeling should produce effects which would probably 
have attended it even in an age l^ss distinguished by laxity of principle at.d 
indelicacy of sentiment. It was not till a natural death had terminated the 
paralytic old age of the Jacobite party that the evil was completely at an eiid. 
The Whigs long looked to Holland, — the High Tories to France. The 
former concluded the Barrier Treaty ;— some of the latter entreated the Court 
of Versailles to send an expedition to England. Many men who, however 
erroneous their political notions might be, were unquestionably honourable in 
private life, accepted money without scruple from the foreign powers iavour- 
able to the Pretender. 

Never was there less of national feeling among the higher orders than 
during the reign of Charles II. That prince, on the one side, thought it 
better to be the deputy of an absolute king than the king of a free people. 
Algernon Sydney, on the other hand, would gladly have aided France in all 
Her ambitious schemes, and have seen England reduced to the condition of a 
province, in the wild hope that a foreign despot would assist him to establish 
his darling republic. The king took the money of France to assist him in 
the enterprise which he meditated against the liberty of his subjects with aa 
little scruple as Frederic of Prussia or Alexander of Russia accepted our sub- 
sidies in time of war. The leaders of the Opposition no more thought them- 
selves disgraced by the presents of Louis than a gentleman of onr own time 
thinks himself disgraced by the liberality of powerful and wealthy members 
of his party who pay his election bill. The money which the king received 
from France had been largely employed to corrupt members of Parliament. 
The enemies of the Court might think it fair, or even absolutely necessary, to 
encounter bribery with bribery. Thus they took the French gratuities, tha 
needy among them for their own use, the rich probably for ihe general pur- 
poses of the party, without any scruple. If we compare their conduct, not 
with that of English statesmen in our own time, but with that of persons in 
those foreign countries which are now situated us England then was, we shall 
probably see reason to abate something of the severity of censure vvitli which 
It has been the fashion to visit those proceedings. Yet, when every allowance 
is made, the transaction is sufficiently offensive. It is satisfactory to find that 
Lord Russell stands free from any imputation of personal participation in 
the spoil. An age so miserably poor in all the moral qualities which render 
public characters respectable can ill spare the credit which it derives from a 
man, not indeed conspicuous for talents or knowledge, but honest even in 



his errors, respectable in every relation of life, rationally pious, steadily and 
placidly brave. 

The great improvement which took place in our breed of public men is 
principally to be ascribed to the Revolution. Yet that memorable event, in 
a great measure, took its character from the very vices which it was the means 
of reforming. It was assuredly a happy revolution, and a useful revolution ; 
but it was not, what it has often been called, a glorious revolution. William, 
and AVilliam alone, derived glory from it. The transaction was, in almost 
every part, discreditable to England. That a tyrant who had violated the 
fundamental laws of the country, who had attacked the rights of its greatest 
corporations, who had begun to persecute the established religion of the state, 
who had never respected the law either in his superstition or in his revenge, 
could not be pulled down without the aid of a foreign army, is a circumstance 
not very grateful to our national pride. Yet this is the least degrading part of 
the story. The shameless insincerity, the warm assurances of general support 
which James received, down to the moment of general desertion, indicate a 
meanness of spirit and a looseness of morality most disgraceful to the age. 
That the enterprise succeeded, at least that it succeeded without bloodshed or 
commotion, was principally owing to an act of ungrateful perfidy such as no 
.soldier had ever before committed, and to those monstrous fictions respecting 
tlie birth of the Prince of Wales wliich persons of the highest rank were ncC 
ashamed to circulate. In all the proceedings of the Convention, in the con- 
ference particularly, we see that littleness of mind which is the chief charac- 
teristic of the times. The resolutions on which the two Houses at last agreed 
were as bad as any resolutions for so excellent a purpose could be. Their 
feeble and contradictory language was evidently intended to save die credit of 
the Tories, who were ashamed to name what they were not ashamed to do. 
Through the whole transaction no commanding talents were displayed by any 
Eni^lishman ; no extraordinary risks were run ; no sacrifices were made, except 
the sacrifice which Churchill made of honour, and Anne of natural affection. 
^ It was in some sense fortunate, as we have already said, for the Church of 
England, that the Reformation in this country was effected by men who cared 
little about religion. And, in the same manner, it was fortunate for our civil 
government that the Revolution was, in a great measure, effected by men who 
cared little about their political principles. At such a crisis, splendid talents 
and strong passions might have done more harm than good. There was far 
greater reason to fear that too much would be attempted, and that violent 
movements would produce an equally violent reaction, than that too little 
would be done in the way of change. But narrowness of intellect and flexi- 
bility of principle, though they may be serviceable, can never be respectable. 

If in the Revolution itself there was little that can properly be called 
glorious, there was still less in the events which followed. In a Church which 
had, as one man, declared the doctrine of resistance unchristian, only four hun- 
dred persons refused to take the oath of allegiance to a government founded 
on resistance. In the preceding generation both the Episcopal and the Pres- 
byterian clergy, rather than concede points of conscience not more important, 
had resigned their livings by thousands. 

The churchmen, at the time of the Revolution, justified their conduct by all 
those profligate sophisms which are called Jesuitical, and which are ccimmonly 
reckoned amongst the peculiar sins of Popery, but which in fact aie every- 
where the anodynes employed by minds rather subtle than strong, to quiet 
Aose internal twinges which they cannot but feel and which they will not 
obey. As their oath was in the teeth of their principles, so was their conduct 
in .the teeth of their oath. Their co«3staat machinations iwwinst the Govern* 


rhent to which they had sworn fidelity brought a reproach on their order and 
on Christianity itself. A distinguished churchman has not scrupled to say 
that the rapid increase of infidelity at that time was principally produced by 
the disgust which the faithless conduct of his brethren excited in men not suf- 
ciently candid or judicious to discern the beauties of the system amidst the 
vices of its ministers. 

But the reproach was not confined to the Church. In every political party, 
in the Cabinet itself, duplicity and perfidy abounded. The very men whom 
William loaded with benefits, and in whom he reposed most confidence, with 
his seals of ofiice in their hands, kept up a correspondence with the exiled 
%mily. Orford, Carmarthen, and Shrewsbury were guilty of this odious 
treachery. Even Devonshire is not altogether free from suspicion. It may 
well be conceived that, at such a time, such a nature as that of Marlborough 
would riot in the very luxury of baseness. His former treason, thoroughly 
furnished with -all that makes infamy exquisite, placed him under the disad- 
vantage which attends every artist from the time that he produces a master- 
piece. Yet his second great stroke may excite wonder, even in those who 
appreciate all the merit of the first. Lest his admirers should be able to say that 
at the time of the Revolution he had betrayed his king from any other than 
selfish motives, he proceeded to betray his country. He sent intelligence to 
the French Court of a secret expedition intended to attack Brest. The con- 
sequence was that the expedition failed, and that eight hundred British soldiers 
lost their lives from the abandoned villainy of a British general. Yet this man 
has been canonized by so many eminent writers that to speak of him as he 
deserves may seem scarcely decent. To us he seems to be the very San 
Ciappelletto of the political calendar. 

The reign of William IH., as Mr. Hallam happily says, was the nadir 
of the national prosperity. It was also the nadir of the national character. 
During that period was gathered in the rank harvest of vices sown during thirty 
years of licentiousness and confusion ; but it was also the seed-time of great 

The press was emancipated from the censorship soon after the Revolution ; 
and the Government fell immediately under the censorship of the press. States- 
men had a scrutiny to endure which was every day becoming more and more 
severe. The extreme violence of opinions abated. The Whigs learned modera- 
tion in office ; the Tories learned the principles of liberty in opposition. The 
parties almost constantly approximated, often met, sometimes crossed each 
pther. There were occasional bursts of violence ; but, from the time of the 
Revolution, those bursts were constantly becoming less and less terrible. Th« 
severity with which the Tories, at the close of the reign of Anne, treated some 
of those who had directed public affairs during the war of the Grand Alliance, 
and the retaliatory measures of the Whigs, after the accession of the House of 
Hanover, cannot be justified j but they were by no means in the style of the 
infuriated parties whose alternate murders had disgraced our history towards 
th^ close of the reign of Charles II. At the fall of Walpole far greater 
moderation was displayed. And from that time it has been the practice,— 
a practice not strictly according to the theory of our Constitution, but still 
most salutary, — to consider the loss of office, and the public disapprobation 
as punishments sufficient for errors in the administration not imputable to 

f)ersonal corruption. Nothing, we believe, has contributed more than this 
enity to raise the character of public men. Ambition is of itself a gamer 
sufficiently hazardous and sufficiently deep to inflame the passions, without; 
adding property, life, and liberty to the stake. Where the. play runs sq 
desperately high as in the seventeenth century, honour is at an end. ^^ates- 


men, instead of being as they should be, at once mild and steady, are at once 
ferocious and inconsistent The axe is for ever before their eyes. A popular 
outcry sometimes unnerves them, and sometimes makes them desperate ; it 
drives them to unworthy Compliances, or to measures of vengeance as cruel a.9 
those which they have reason to expect. A minister in our times need not 
fea/ either to be firm or to be merciful. Our old policy in this respect was as 
absurd as that of the king in the Eastern tales who proclaimed that any 
physician who pleased might come to Court and prescribe for his diseases, but 
that if the remedies failed the adventurer should lose his head. It is easy to^ 
conceive how many able men would refuse to undertake the cure on such con-" 
ditions ; how much the sense of extreme danger would confuse the perceptions, 
and cloud the intellect, of the practitioner, at the very crisis which most called' 
for self-possession, and how strong his temptation would be, if he found that 
he had committed a blunder, to escape the consequences of it by poisoning bis 

But, in fact, it would have been impossible, since the Revolution, to punish 
any minister for the general course of his policy, with the slightest semblance 
of justice ; for since that time no minister has been able to pursue any general 
course of policy without the approbation of the Parliament. The most important 
effects of that great change were, as Mr. Hallam has most truly said and most 
ably shown, those which it indirectly produced. Thenceforward it became the 
interest of the executive government to protect those very doctrines which an 
executive government is in general inclined to persecute. The sovereign, the 
ministers, the courtiers, at last even the universities and the clergy, were 
changed into advocates of the right of resistance. In the theory of the Whigs, - 
in the situation of the Tories, in the common interest of all public men, the 
Parliamentary constipation of the country found perfect security. The power of 
the House of Commons, in particular, has been steadily on the increase. By 
the practice of granting supplies for short terms, and appropriating them to par- 
ticular services, it has rendered its approbation as necessary in practice to all 
the measures of the executive government as it is in the theory of a legislative 

Mr. Hallam appears to have begun with the reign of Henry VII., as the 
period at which what is called modem history, in contradistinction to the 
history of the middle ages, is generally supposed to commence. He has stopped 
at the accession of George III., ** from unwillingness," as he says, "to excite 
the prejudices of modem politics, especially those connected with personal 
character." These two eras, we think, deserved the distinction on other 
gi-ounds. Our remote posterity, when looking back on our history in that 
comprehensive manner in which remote posterity alone can, without much 
danger of error, look back on it, will probably observe those points with pecu* 
fliar interest. They are, if we mistake not, the beginning and the end of an 
■ entire and separate chapter in our annals. The period which lies between them 
is a perfect cycle, a great year of the public mind. 

In the reign of Henry VII. all the political differences which had agitated 
England since the Norman conquest seemed to be set at rest. The long Q.n\ 
fierce struggle between the Crown and the barons had terminated. The grie- 
vances which had produced the rebellions of Tyler and Cade had disappeared, 
Villanage was scarcely known. The two royal houses, whose conflicting 
claims had long convulsed the kingdom, were at length united. The claimants 
whose pretensions, just or injust, had disturbed the new settlement, were over- 
thrown. In religion there was no open dissent, and probably very little secret 
heresy. The old subjects of contention, in short) had vanished • those which 
irtn to succeed had not yet appeared. 


awn ■ II » .^ ^ — ^ 

Soon, however, new principles were announced ; principles which were 
destined to keep England during two centuries and a half in a state of corr>- 
motion. The Reformation divided the people into two great parties. 1 ..e 
Protestants were victorious. They again subdivided themselves. Political 
aystems were engrafted on theological doctrines. The mutual animosities of 
the two parties gradually emerged into the light of public life. First came con- 
flicts in Parliament ; then civii war ; then revolutions upon revolutions, each 
attended by its appurtenance of proscriptions, and persecutions, and tests : 
each followed by severe measures on the part of the conquerors ; each exciting 
a deadly and festering hatred in the conquered. During the reign of George II, 
things were evidently tending to repose. At the close of it the nation had 
completed the great revolution which commenced in the early part of the 
sixteenth century, and was again at rest. The fury of sects had died away. The 
Catholics themselves practically enjoyed toleration ; and more than toleration 
they did not yet venture even to desire. Jacobitism was a mere name. Nobody 
was left to fight for that wretched cause, and very few to drink for it. The 
Constitution, purchased so dearly, was on every side extolled and worshipped. 
Even those distinctions of party which must almost always be found in a free 
state could scarcely be traced. The two great bodies which, from the time of 
the Revolution, had been gradually tending to approximation were now united 
in emulous support of that splendid administration which smote to the dust 
both the branches of the House of Bourbon. The great battle for our eccle- 
siastical and civil polity had been fought and won. The wounds had been 
healed. The victors and the vanquished were rejoicing together. Every person 
acquainted with the political writers of the last generation will recollect the 
terms in which they generally speak of that time. It was a glimpre of a golden 
age of union and glory, — a short interval of rest, which had been preceded 
by centuries of agitation, and which centuries of agitation were destined to 

How soon faction again began to ferment is well known. In the letters of 
Junius, in Burke's Thoughts on the Cause of the Discontents, and in many 
other writings of less merit, the viofent dissensions which speedily convulsed 
the country are imputed to the system of favouritism which George III. intro- 
duced, to the influence of Bute, or to the profligacy of those who called them- 
selves the king's friends. With all deference to the eminent writers to whom 
we have referred, we may venture to say that they lived too near the events of 
which they treated to judge correctly. The schism which was then appearing 
in the nation, and which has been from that time almost constantly widening, 
had little in common with those which had divided it during the reigns of the 
Tudors and the Stuarts. The symptoms of popular feeling, indeed, will 
always be in a great measure the same ; but the principle which excited that 
feeling was here new. The support which was given to Wilkes, the clamour 
for reform during the American war, the disaffected conduct of large classes of 
people at the time of the French Revolution, no more resembled the opposi- 
tion which had been ofi'ered to the government of Charles II, than that 
opposition resembled the contest between the Roses. 

In the political, as in the natural body, a sensation is often referred to a part 
widely different from that in which it really resides. A man whose leg is cut 
off fancies that he feels a pain in his toe. And in the same manner the people, 
in the earlier part of the late reign, sincerely attributed their discontent U 
grievances which had been effectually lopped off. They imagined that the 
prerogative was too strong for the Constitution, that the principles of th? 
Revolution were abandoned, that the system of the Stuarts was restored. 
Every impartial man must now acknowledge that these charges were gi ftuad- 


' " ■■- — — — ^ - il -i i H .^ 

less. _ The proceedings of the government with respect to the Middlesex 
election would have been contemplated with delight by the first generation of 
Whigs. They would have thought it a splendid triumph of the cause of 
liberty that the king and the Lords should resign to the House of Commons a 
portion of the legislative power,, and allow it to incapacitate without their 
consent. This, indeed, Mr, Burke clearly perceived. "When the House of 
Commons," says he, "in an endeavour to obtain new advantages at th*; 
expense of the other orders of the state, for the benefit of the commons al 
large, have pursued strong measures, if it were not just, it was at least natural, 
that the constituents should connive at all their proceedings ; because we our- 
selves were ultimately to profit. But when this submission is urged to us in a 
contest between the representatives and ourselves, and where nothing can be put 
into their scale which is not taken from ours, they fancy us to be children 
when they tell us that they are our representatives, our own fiesh and blood, 
and that all the stripes they give us are for our good." These sentences 
contain, in fact, the whole explanation of the mystery. The conflict of the 
seventeenth century was maintained by the Parliament against the Crown. 
The conflict which commenced in the middle of the eighteenth century, which 
still remains undecided, and in which our children and gi-andchildren will 
probably be called to act or to suffer, is between a large portion of the 
people on the one side, and the Crown and the Parliament united on the 

The privileges of the House of Commons, those privileges which, in 1642, 
all London rose in arms to defend, which the people considered as synonymous 
with their own liberties, and in comparison of which they took no account of 
the most precious and sacred principles of English jurisprudence, have now 
become nearly as odious as the rigours of martial law. That power of com- 
mitting which the people anciently loved to see the House of Commons 
exercise, is now, at least when employed against libellers, the most unpopular 
power in the Constitution. If the Commons were to suffer the Lords to amend 
money-bills, we do not believe that the people would care one straw about 
the matter. If they were to suffer the Lords even to originate money-bills, we 
doubt whether such a surrender of their constitutional rights would excite half 
so much dissatisfaction as the exclusion of strangers from a single important 
discussion. The gallery in which the reporters sit has become a fourth estate 
of the realm. The publication of the debates, a practice which seemed to the 
most liberal statesmen of the old school full of danger to the great safeguards 
of public liberty, is now regarded by many persons as a safeguard tantamount, 
and more than tantamount, to all the rest together. 

Burke, in a speech on parliamentary reform, which is the more remarkable 
because it was delivered long before the French Revolution, has described, in 
striking language, the change in public feeling of which we speak. "It 
suggests melancholy reflections," says he, "in consequence of the strange 
course we have long held, that we are now no longer quarrelling about the 
character, or about the conduct of men, or the tenor of measures ; but we are 
grown out of humour with the English Constitution itself ; this is become thft 
object of the animosity of Englishmen. This Constitution in former days used 
to be the envy of the world ; it was the pattern for politicians ; the theme of 
the eloquent ; the meditation of the philosopher in every part of the world. 
As to Englishmen, it was their pride, — their consolation. By it they lived, 
and for it they were ready to die. Its defects, if it had any, were partly 
covered by partiality, and partly bome by prudence. Now all its excellences 
are forgot, its faults are forcibly dragged into day, exaggerated by every 
artifice of misrepresentation. It is despised and rejected of men ; and every 


elevice and invention of ingenuity or idleness is set up in opposition, or in 
preference to it." We neither adopt nor condemn the language of reprobation 
which tlie gi'eat orator here employs. We call him only as a witness to the 
fact. That the revolution of public feeling which he described was then in 
progress is indisputable ;; and it is equally indisputable, we think, that it is in 
progress still. 

To investigate and classify the causes of so great a change would require fai 
more thought, and far more space, than we at present have to bestow. But 
some of them are obvious. During the contest which the Parliament carried 
on against the Stuarts, it had only to check and complain. It has since had 
■^ covern. As an attacking body, it could select its points of attack, and it 

jj * 'ly^chose those on which it was likely to receive public support. As a , 
ffratikr the Dei ^^^^ neither the same liberty of choice nor the same motives to 
to itself some ^f ti^^^^^ ^^^ power of an executive government, it has drawn 
ment. On the House'5fl' ^^^ ^^^ ^^l unpopularity of an executive govern- 
purse, and consequently of ^E?^°"^,.^b°^^ all, possessed as it is of the public 
of an iU-conducted war, of a bluH^l^^ sword, the nation throws all the blame 
an embarrassing commercial crisis. TlB^.S^ciation of a disgraceful treaty, o\ 
misconduct of a judge at Van Diemen's LaiYS^f the Court of Chancery, the 
any part of the administration any person feels as'^^i^^^g' in short which m 
the tyranny, or at least to the negligence, of that all-poWl^e, is attributed to 
individuals pester it with their wrongs and claims. A merchcRP'^y' Private 
from the courts of Rio Janeiro or St. Petersburgh. A painter wlT^^ls to it 
nobody to buy the acre of spoiled canvas, which he calls a historical picfed 
pours into its sympathizing ear the whole story of his debts and his jealousies. 
Anciently the Parliament resembled a member of opposition, from whom no 
places are expected, who is not required to confer favours and propose mea- 
sures, but merely to watch and censure, and who may, therefore, unless he is 
grossly injudicious, be popular with the great body of the community. The 
Parliament now resembles the same person put into office, surrounded by 
petitioners whom twenty times his patronage would not satisfy ; stunned with 
complaints, buried in memorials, compelled by the duties of his station to 
bring forward measures similar to those which he was formerly accustomed to 
observe and to check, and perpetually encountered by objections similar to 
those which it was formerly his business to raise. 

Perhaps it may be laid down as a general rule that a legislative assembly, 
not constituted on democratical principles, cannot be popular long after it 
ceases to be weak. Its zeal for what the people, rightly or wrongly, con- 
ceive to be their interest, its sympathy with their mutable and violent pas- 
sions, are merely the effects of the particular circumstances in which it is 
placed. As long as it depends for existence on the public favour, it will 
employ all the means in its power to conciliate that favour. While this is 
the case, defects in its constitution are of little consequence. ^ But, as the 
close union of such a body with the nation is the effect of an identity of in- 
terest not essential but accidental, it is in some measure dissolved from the 
time at which the danger which produced it ceases to exist. 

Hence, before the Revolution, the question of Parliamentary reform was 
of very little importance. The friends of liberty had no very ardent wish 
for it. The si'ongest Tories saw no objections to it. It is remarkable that 
Clarendon loudly applauds the changes which Cromwell introduced, changes 
far stronger than the Whigs of the present day would in general approve. 
There is no reason to think, however, that the reform effected by CromweH 
made any great difference in the conduct of the Parliament. Indeed, if tho 


House of Commons had, during the reign of Charles II., been elected by 
■aniversal suffrage, or if all the seats had been put up to sale, as in the 
French Parliaments, it would, we suspect, have acted very much as it did. 
We know how strongly the Parliament of Paris exerted itself in favour of th« 
people on many important occasions ; and the reason is evident. Though it 
did not emanate from the people, its whole consequence depended on the sup- 
port of the people. From the time of the Revolution the House of Commons 
has been gradually becoming what it now is, — a great council of state, con- 
tainino- many members chosen freely by the people, and many others anxious 
to acquire the favour of the people ; but, on the whole, aristocratical in its 
temper and interest. It is very far from being an illiberal and stupid o^ip^'f J'^j* 
but is equally far from being an express image of the general feel^^j. gi^^yj 
influenced by the opinion of the people, and influenced pow|'-{^gYo're the Re- 
and circuitously. Instead of outrunning the public min^-J ^^ ^ ^.^^ distant 
volution it frequently did, it now follows with slow^^j^g ^^ because the good 
It is, therefore, necessarily unpopular ; an^^^j^jj^^j^ perception than the evil 
Which it produces is much less evident ^^f ^n ^j^^ mischief which is done, or 
^^hich it inflicts. It bears the^J^^y ^^ ^y j^g connivance. It does not get 
supposed to be done, by itj^i^- of having prevenced those innumerable abuses 
the credit, on the otJ^gXy because the House of Commons exists, 
which do not e^f- the nation is certainly desirous of a reform in the repre- 

A largi'ystem. How large that part may be, and how strong its desires on 
sentgubject may be, it is difficult to say. It is only at intervals that the 
clamour on the subject is loud and vehement. But it seems to us that, during 
the remissions, the feeling gathers strenjjth, and that every successive burst is 
more violent than that which preceded it. The public attention may be for a 
time diverted to the Catholic claims or the mercantile code ; but it is pro- 
bable that at no very distant period, perhaps in the lifetime of the present 
generation, all other questions will merge in that which is, in a certain degree, 
connected with them all. 

Already we seem to ourselves to perceive the signs of unquiet times, the 
vague presentiment of something great and strange which pervades the com- 
munity, the restless and turbid hopes of those who have everything to gain, 
the dimly hinted forebodings of those who have everything to lose. Many 
indications might be mentioned, in themselves, indeed, as insignificant as 
straws ; but even the direction of a straw, to borrow the illustration of Bacon, 
li^ill show from what quarter the storm is setting in. 

A great statesman might, by judicious and timely reformations, by recon- 
ciling the two great branches of the natural aristocracy, the capitalists and the 
landowners, and by so widening the base of the government as to interest in 
its defence the whole of the middle class, that brave, honest, and sound-hearted 
class, which is as anxious for the maintenance of order and the security of 
property as it is hostile to corruption and oppression, succeed in averting a 
struggle to which no rational friend of liberty or of law can look forward 
without great apprehensions. There are those who will be contented with 
nothing but demolition ; and there are those who shrink from all repair. There 
are innovators who long for a President and a National Convention ; and there 
are bigots who, while cities larger and richer than the capitals of many great 
kingdoms are calling out for representatives to watch over their interests, 
select some hackneyed jobber in boroughs, some peer of the narrowest and 
smallest mind, as the fittest depositary of a forfeited franchise. Between these 
extremes there lies a more excellent v/ay. Time is bringing round another 
crisis analogous to that which occurred in the seventeenth century. We stan^' 


in a situation similar to that in which our ancestors stood under tlie reign of 
James I. It will soon again be necessary to reform that we may pre* 
serve, to save the fundamental principles of the Constitution by alterations 
in the subordinate parts. It will then be possible, as it was poSi,ible two 
hundred years ago, to protect vested rights, to secure every useful mstitution, — 
every institution endeared by antiquity and noble associations, and, at the 
same time, to introduce into the system improvements harmonizing with the 
original plan. It remains to be seen whether two hundred years have made 
us wiser. 

We know of no great revolution which might not have been prevented by 
compromise earlyand graciously made. Firmness is a great virtue in public' 
affairs ; but it has its proper sphere. Conspiracies and insurrections in which 
small minorities are engaged, the outbreakings of popular violence unconnected 
with any extensive project or any durable principle, are best repressed by 
vigour and decision. To shrink from them is to make them formidable. But 
no wise ruler will confound the pervading taint with the slight local irritation. 
No wise ruler will treat the deeply seated discontents of a great party, as he 
treats the fury of a mob which destroys, mills and power-looms. The 
neglect of this distinction has been fatal even to governments strong in the 
power of the sword. The present time is indeed a time of peace and order. 
But it is at such a time that fools are most thoughtless, and wise men most 
thoughtful. That the discontents which have agitated the country during the 
late and the present reign, and which, though not always noisy, are never 
wholly dormant, will again break forth with aggravated symptons, is almost as 
certain as that the lides and seasons will follow their appointed course. But in 
all movements of the human mind which tend to great revolutions there is a 
crisis at which moderate concession may amend, conciliate and preserve. 
Happy will it be for England if, at that crisis, ber interests be confided to men 
for whom history has not recorded the long series of human crimes and follies 
in vain. 


Sir Thomas More ; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society. By Robhkt 
SouTHEY, Esq., LL.D., Poet Laureate. 2 vols, 8vo. Lond. 1829. 

It would be scarcely possible for a man of Mr. Southey's talents and acquire- 
ments to write two volumes so large as those before us, which should be wholly 
destitute of information and amusement. Yet we do not remember to have 
read with so Httle satisfaction any equal quantity of matter, written by any 
man of real abilities. We have, for some time past, observed with great regret 
the strange infatuation which leads the Poet-laureate to abandpn those depart- 
ments of literature in which he might excel, and to lecture the public on 
sciences of which he has still the very alphabet to learn. He has now, wf ' 
think, done his worst. The subject which he has at last undertaken to trea! 
is one which demands all the highest intellectual and moral qualities of a 
philosophical statesman, — an understanding at once comprehensive and acute^ 
— a heart at once upright and charitable. Mr. Southey brings to the task two 
faculties which were never, we believe, vouchsafed in mt asure so copious to 
any human being, — the faculty of believing without a rci son, and the faculty 
of hating without a provocation. 

^ It is, indeed, most extraordinary that a mind like Mr. Southey's,— a mind 
richly endowed in many respects by nature, and highly cultivated by study, — 
a mind which has exercised considerable influence on the most enlightened 
generation of the most enlightened people that ever existed '-should Ve utterly 


destitute of the power of discerning truth from falsehood. Yet such is the 
fact. Government is to Mr. Southey one of the fine arts. He judges of a 
theory or a public measure, of a religion, a political party, a peace or a war, 
as men judge of a picture or a statue, by the effect produced on his imagination. 
A chain of associations is to him what a chain of reasoning is to other men ; 
and what he calls his Opinions, are in fact merely his tastes. 

Part of this description might, perhaps, apply to a much greater man, Mr. 
Burke. But Mr. Burke, assuredly, possessed an understanding admirably 
fitted for the investigation of truth, — an understanding stronger than that of 
any statesman, active or speculative, of the eighteenth century, — stronger than 
everything, except his own fierce and ungovernable sensibility. Hence, he 
generally chose his side like a fanatic, and defended it like a philosopher. Hia 
conduct, in the most important events of his life, — at the time of the impeach;* 
'ztQxit of Hastings, for example, and at the time of the French Revolution,-^, 
saems to have been prompted by those feelings and motives, which Mr. Cole- 
ridge has so happily described : 

" Stormy pity, and the chensh'd lure- 
Of pomp, and proud precipitance of roal." 

liindostan, with its vast cities, its gorgeous pagodas, its infinite swarms of 
dusky population, its long-descended dynasties, its stately etiquette, excited la 
a mind so capacious, so imaginative, and so susceptible, the most interne 
interest. The peculiarities of the costume, of the manners, and of the laws, 
the very mystery which hung over the language and origin of the people, 
seized his imagination. To plead in Westminster Hall, hi the name of the 
English people, at the bar of the English nobles, for great nations and kings 
separated from him by half the world, seemed to him the height of human 
glory. Again, it is not difficult to perceive, that his hostility to the French 
Revolution principally arose from the vexation which he felt, at having all his 
old political associations disturbed, at seeing the well-known boundary-marks 
of states obliterated, and the names and distinctions with which the history of 
Europe had been filled for ages, swept away. He felt like an antiquarian 
whose shield had been scoured, or a connoisseur, who found his Titian 
retouched. But however he came by an opinion, he had no sooner got it, than 
he did his best to make out a legitimate title to it. His reason, like a spirit 
in the service of an enchaliter, though spell-bound, was still mighty. It did 
whatever work his passions and his imagination might impose. But it did that 
work, however arduous, with marvellous dexteirity and vigour. His course was 
not determined by argument ; but he could defend the wildest course by argu- 
ments more plausible, than those by which common men support opinions, , 
which they have adopted, after the fullest deliberation. Reason has scarcely 
ever displayed, even in those well-constituted minds of which she occupies the 
throne, so much power and energy as in the lowest offices of that imperial 

Now, in the mind of Mr. Southey, reason has no place at all, as- either ^ 
leader or follower, as either sovereign or slave. He does not seem to know 
what an argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He never troubles 
Aimself to answer the arguments of his opponents. It has never occurred to 
him, that a man ought to be able to give some better account of the way in 
which he has arrived at his opinions than merely that it is his will and pleasure 
to hold them, —that there is a difference between assertion and demonstration, 
— that a rumour does not always prove a fact, — that a fact does not always 
prove a theory, — that two contradictory propositions cannot be undeniable 
truths, — that to beg the question, is not the way to settle it, — or that whe» 


an objection is raised, it ought to be met with something more convincing, than 
** scoundrel" and "blockhead." 

It would be absurd to read the works of such a writer for political instruc- 
tion. The utmost that can be expected from any system promulgated by him 
is that it may be splendid and affecting, — that it may suggest sublime and 
pleasing images. His scheme of philosophy is a mere day-dream, a poetical 
creation, like the Domdaniel caverns, the Swerga, or Padalon ; and indeed, it 
bears no inconsiderable resemblance to those gorgeous visions. Like them, it 
has something of invention, grandeur, aad brilliancy. But like them, it is 
grotesque and extravagant, and perpetually violates that conventional proba- 
bility which is essential to the effect even of works of art. 

The warmest admirers of Mr. Southey will scarcely, we think, deny that 
his success has almost always borne an inverse proportion to the degree in 
wliich his undertakings have required a logical head. His poems, taken in the 
mass, stand far higher than his prose works. The Laureate Odes, indeed, 
among which the Vision of Judgment must be classed, are, for the most part, 
worse than Pye's, and as bad as Gibber's ; nor do we think him generally happy 
in. short pieces. But his longer poems, though full of faults, are nevertheless 
very extraordinary productions. We doubt greatly whether they will be read 
fifty years hence, — but that if they are read, they will be admired, we have ns 
doubt whatever. 

But though in general we prefer Mr. Southey's poetry to his prose, we must 
make one exception. The Life of Nelson is, beyond all doubt, the most 
perfect and the most delightful of his works. The fact is, as his poems most 
abundantly prove, that he is by no means so skilful in designing, as in filling 
up. It was therefore an advantage to him to be furnished with an outline of 
characters and events, and to have no other task to perform than that of 
touching the cold sketch into life. No writer, perhaps, ever lived, whose 
talents so precisely qualified him to write the history of the great naval warrior. 
There were no fine riddles of the human heart to read — no theories to found — 
no hidden causes to develope — no remote consequences to predict. The 
character of the hero lay on the surface. The exploits were' brilliant and 
picturesque. The necessity of adhering to the real course of events saved Mr. 
Southey from those faults which deform the original plan of almost every one 
of his poems, and which even his innumerable beauties of detail scarcely 
redeem. The subject did not require the exercise of those reasoning powers 
the want of which is the blemish of his prose. It would not be easy to find 
in all literary histoiy, an instance of a more exact hit between wind and water. 
John Wesley, and the Peninsular War, were subjects of a very different kind, 
— subjects which required all the qualities of a philosophic historian. In Mr. 
Southey's works on these subjects, he has, on the whole, failed. Yet there 
are charming specimens of the art of narration in both of them. The Life of 
Wesley will probably live. Defective as it is, it contains the only popular 
account of a most remarkable moral revolution, and of a man whose eloquence 
and logical acutencss might have rendered him eminent in literature, whose 
genius for government was not inferior to that of Richelieu, and who, whatever 
his errors may have been, devoted all his powers, in defiance of obloquy and 
derision, to what he sincerely considered as the highest good of his species. 
The History of the Peninsular War is already dead : — indeed, the second 
volunLa was dead-born. The glory of producing an imperishable record of 
that great conflict seems to be reserved for Colonel Napier. 

The Book of the Church contaiss some stories very prettily told. The rest 
is mere i-ubbisli. The adventure was manifestly one which could be achieved 
only by a profound thinker, and in which even a profound thinker might have 


failed, unless his passions had been kept under strict control. In all those 
works in which Mr. Southey has completely abandoned narration, and under- 
taken to argue moral and political questions, his failure has been cor^plete and 
ignominious. On such occasions, his writings are rescued from utter contempt 
and derision solely by the beauty and purity of the English. We find, we 
confess, so great a charm in Mr. Southey's style, that, even when he writes 
nonsense, we generally read it with pleasure, except, indeed, when he tries to 
be droll. A more insufferable jester never existed. He very often attempts 
to be humorous, and yet we do not remember a single occasion on which he 
has succeeded farther than to be quaintly and flippantly dull. In one of his 
works, he tells us that Bishop Sprat was very properly so called, inasmuch as 
he was a very small poet. And in the bool' now before us, he cannot quote 
Francis Bugg without a remark on his unsa l^oury name. A man might talk 
folly like this by his own fireside ; but that any human being, after having 
made such a joke, should write it down, and copy it out, and transmit it to 
the printer, and correct the proof-sheets, and send it forth into the world, is 
enough to make us ashamed of our species. 

• The extraordinary bitterness of spirit which Mr. Southey manifests towards 
his opponents is, no doubt, in a great measure to be attributed to the manner 
in which he forms his opinions. Differences of taste, it has often been 
remarked, produce greater exasperation than differences on points of science. 
But this is not all. A peculiar austerity marks almost all Mr. Southey's judg- 
ments of men and actions. We are far from blaming him for fixing on a high 
standard of morals, and for applying that standard to every case. But rigour 
ought to be accompanied by discernment, and of discernment Mr. Southey 
seems to be utterly destitute. His mode of judging is monkish ; it is exactly 
what we should expect from a stern old Benedictine, who had been preserved 
from many ordinary frailties by the restraints of his situation. No man out of 
a cloister ever wrote about love, for example, so coldly and at the same time 
so grossly. His descriptions of it are just what we should hear from a recluse 
who knew the passion only from the details of the confessional. Almost all 
his heroes make love either like seraphim or like cattle. He seems to have 
xxo notion of anything between the Platonic passion of the Glendoveer, who 
gazes with rapture on his mistress's leprosy, and the brutal appetite of Arvalan 
and Roderick. In Roderick, indeed, the two characters are united. He is 
first all clay, and then all spirit ; he goes forth a Tarquin, and comes back too 
ethereal to be married. The only love-scene, as far as we can recollect, in 
Madoc, consists of the delicate attentions which a savage, who has drunk too 
\iuch of the prince's metheglin, offers to Goervyl. It would be the labour of 
^ week to find in all the vast mass of Mr. Southey's poetiy a single passage 
indicating any sympathy with those feelings which have consecrated the shades 
of Vaucluse and the rocks of Meillerie. 

Indeed, if we except some very pleasing images of paternal tendernesss and 
filial duty, there is scarcely anything soft or humane in Mr. Southey's poetry. 
What theologians call the spiritual sins are his cardinal virtues — hatred, pride, 
and the insatiable thirst of vengeance. These passions he disguises under the 
name of duties ; he purifies them from the alloy of vulgar interests ; he en- 
nobles them by uniting them with energy, fortitude, and a severe sanctity of 
manners, and then holds them up to the admiration of mankind. This is the 
spirit of Thalaba, of Ladurlad, of Adosinda, of Roderick after his regenera- 
tion. It is tbe spirit which, in all his writings, Mr. Southey appears to affect. 
" I do well to be angry," seems to be the predominant feeling of his mind. 
Almost the only mark of charity which he vouchsafes to his opponents is to 
pray for their conversion, and this he does in terms not unlike thos* in which 


we can imagine a Portuguese priest intei ceding with Heaven for a Jew 
delivered over to the secular arm after a relapse. 

We have always heard, and fully believe, that Mr. Southey is a very amiable 
and humane man ; nor do we intend to apply to him personally any of the re- 
marks which we have made on the spirit of his writings. Such are the caprices 
of human nature. Even Uncle Toby troubled himself very little about the 
French grenadiers who fell on the glacis of Namur. And when Mr. Southey 
takes up his pen, he changes his nature as much as Captain Shandy when he 
girt on his sword. The only opponents to whom he gives quarter are those 
in whom he finds something of his own character reflected. He seems to 
have an instinctive antipathy for calm, moderate men — for min who shun 
extremes and who render reasons. He has treated Mr. Owen, oi Lanark, for 
example, with infinitely more respect than he has shown to Mr. Hallam or to 
Dr. Lingard ; and this for no reason that we can discover, except that Mr. 
Owen is more unreasonably and hopelessly in the wrong than any speculator 
of our time. 

Mr. Southey's political system is just what we might expect from a man 
who regards politics not as a matter of science, but as a matter of taste and 
feeling. All his schemes of government have been inconsistent with them- 
selves. In his youth he was a republican ; yet, as he tells us in his preface 
to these Colloquies, he was even then opposed to the Catholic claims. He 
is now a violent Ultra-Tory. Yet while he maintains, with vehemence approach- 
ing to ferocity, all the sterner and harsher parts of the Ultra- Tory theory of 
government, the baser and dirtier part of that theory disgusts him. Exclusion, 
persecution, severe punishments for libellers and demagogues, proscriptions, 
massacres, civil war, if necessary, rather than any concession to a discontented 
people, — these are the measures which he seems inclined to recommend. A 
severe and gloomy tyranny — crushing opposition, silencing remonstrance, 
drilling the minds of the people into unreasoning obedience — has in it some- 
thing of grandeur which delights his imagination. But there is nothing fine 
in the shabby tricks and jobs of office. And Mr. Southey, accordingly, has 
no toleration for them. "When a democrat, he did not perceive that his system 
led logically, and would have led practically, to the removal of religious dis' 
tinclicns. He now commits a similar error. He renounces the abject and 
paltry part of the creed of his party, without perceiving that it is also an 
essential part of that creed. He would have tyranny and purity together ; 
though the most superficial observation might have shown him that there 
can be no t)rranny without corruption. 

It is high time, however, that we should proceed to the consideration of the 
work, which is our more immediate subject, and which, indeed, illustrates 
in almost every page our general remarks on Mr. Southey's writings. In the 
deface, we are informed that the author, notwithstanding some statements to 
ihe contrary, was always opposed to the Catholic claims. We fully believe 
this; both because we are sure that Mr. Southey is incapable of publishing a 
deliberate falsehood, and because his averment is in itself probable. It is 
exactly wliat we should have expected that, even in his wildest paroxysms of 
democratic enthusiasm, Mr. Southey would have felt no wish to see a simple 
remedy applied to a great practical evil ; that the only measure which all the 
great statesmen of two generations have agreed with each other in supporting 
Would be the only measure which Mr. Southey would have agreed with him. 
self in opposing. lie has passed from one extreme of political opinion to 
another, as Satan, in Milton, went round the globe, contriving constantly to 
*' ride with darkness." Wherever the thickest shadow of the night may at 
ony moment chance to fall, th^re is Mr. Southey. It is not everybody wijo 


could have so dexterously avoided blundering on the daylight in the course of 
a journey to the Antipodes. 

Mr. Southey has not been fortunate in the plan of any of his fictitious narra- 
tives. But he has never failed so conspicuously as in the \vo:k before us ; 
except, indeed, in the wretched Vision of Judgment. In November 1817, it 
seems, the Laureate was sitting over his newspaper, and meditating about the 
death of the Princess Charlotte. An elderly person, of very dignilied aspect, 
makes his appearance announces himself as a stranger from a distant country, 
and apologises very politely for not having provided himself with letters of 
introduction. Mr. Southey supposes his visitor to be some x\merican gentle- 
man, who has come to see the lakes and the lake-poets, and accordingly pro- 
ceeds to perform, with that grace which only long experience cau give, all the 
duties which authors owe to starers. He assures his guest that some of the 
most agreeable visits which he has received have been from Americans, and 
that he knows men among them whose talents and virtues would do honour to 
any country. In passing, we may observe, to the honour of Mr. Southey, that, 
though he evidently has no liking for the American institutions, he never 
'speaks of the people of the United States with that pitiful affectation of con- 
tempt by which some members of his party have done more than wai*s or tariffs 
can do to excite mutual enmity between two communities formed for mutua? 
friendship. Great as the faults of his mind are, paltry spite like this has no 
place in it. Indeed, it is scarcely conceivable that a man of his sensibility and 
his imagination should look without pleasure and national pride on the vigor- 
ous and splendid youth of a great people, whose veins are filled with our blood, 
whose minds are nourished with our literature, and on whom is entailed the 
rich inheritance of our civilisation, our freedom, and our glory. 

But we must return to Mr. Southey's study at Keswick. The visitor in- 
forms the hospitable poet that he is not an American, but a spirit, Mr. 
Southey, with more frankness than civility, tells him that he is a very queer 
one. The stranger holds out his hand. It has neither weight nor substance. 
Mr. Southey upon this becomes more serious ; his hair stands on end ; and he 
adjures the spectre to tell him what he is, and why he comes. The ghost 
turns out to be Sir Thomas More. The traces of martyrdom, it seems, are 
worn in the other world, as stars and ribbands are worn in this. Sir Thomas 
shows the poet a red streak round his neck, brighter than a ruby, and informs 
him that Cranmer wears a suit of flames in paradise, — the right hand glove, 
we suppose, of peculiar brilliancy. 

Sir Thomas pays but a short visit on this occasion, but promises to cultivate 
the new acquaintance which he has formed, and, after begging that his visit 
may be kept secret from Mrs. Southey, vanishes into air. 

The rest of the book consists of conversations between Mr. Southey and the 
spirit about trade, currency. Catholic emancipation, periodical literature, fe- 
male nunneries, butchers, snuff, book-stalls, and a hundred other subjects. 
Mr. Southey very hospitably takes an opportunity to lionize the ghost round 
' the lakes, and directs his attention to the most beautiful points of view. Why 
a spirit was to be evoked for the purpose of talking over such matters, and 
seeing such sights — why the vicar of the parish, a blue-stocking from London, 
or an American, such as Mr. Southey supposed his aerial visitor to be, might 
not have done as well — we are unable to perceive. Sir Thomas tells ^Ir. 
Southey nothing about future events, and indeed absolutely disclaims the gift 
of prescience. He has learned to talk modern English : he has read all the 
new publications, and loves a jest as well as when he jested with the executioner, 
though we cannot say that the quality of his wit has materis lly improved in 
paradise. His powers of reasoning, too, are by no means ip as great vigoof 


as when he sate on the woolsack ; and though he boasts that he is "divested of 
all those passions which cloud the intellects and warp the understandings of 
men," we think him — we must confess — far less stoical than formerly. As to 
revelations, he tells Mr. Southey at thtf outset to expect none from him. The 
Laureate expresses some doubts, which assuredly will not raise him in the 
opinion of our modem millennarians, as to the divine authority of the Apoca- 
lypse. But the ghost preserves an impenetrable silence. As far as we remember, 
only one hint about the employments of disembodied spirits escapes him. He 
encourages Mr. Southey to hope that there is a Paradise Press, at which all 
the valuable publications of Mr. Murray and Mr. Colbuni are reprinted as 
regularly as at Philadelphia ; and delicately insinuates, that Thalaba and the 
Curse of Kehama are among the number. What a contrast does this absurd 
fiction present "to those charming narratives which Plato and Cicero prefixed to 
their dialogues ! What cost in machinery, yet what poverty of effect ! A 
ghost brought in to say what any man miglit have said ! The glorified spirit 
of a great statesman and philosopher dawdling, like a bilious old Nabob at a 
watering-place, over quarterly reviews and novels — dropping in to pay long 
calls — making excursions in search of the picturesque ! The scene of St. 
George and St. Denys in the Pucelle is hardly more ridiculous. We know 
what Voltaire meant. Nobody, however, can suppose that Mr. Southey means 
to make game of the mysteries of a higher state of existence. The fact is, 
that in the work before us, in the Vision of Judgment, and in some of his 
other pieces, his mode of treating the most solemn subjects differs from that of 
open scoffers only as the extravagant representations of sacred persons and 
things in some grotesque Italian paintings differ from the caricatures which 
Carlile exposes in the front of his shop. We interpret the particular act by 
the general character. What in the window of a convicted blasphemer we 
call blasphemous, we call only absurd and ill-judged in an altar-piece. 

We now come to the conversations which pass between Mr. Southey and 
Sir Thomas More, or rather between two Southeys, equally eloquent, equally 
angry, equally unreasonable, and equally given to talk about what they do not 
understand. Perhaps we could not select a better instance of the spirit which 
pervades the whole book than the discussion touching butchers. These persons 
are represented as castaways, as men whose employment hebetates the facul- 
ties and hardens the heart ; not that the poet has any scruples about the use of 
animal food. Pie acknowledges that it is for the good of the animals them- 
selves that men should feed upon them. "Nevertheless," says he, "lean- 
not but acknowledge, like good old John Fox, that the sight of a slaughter- 
house or shambles, if it does not disturb tliis clear conviction, excites in me 
uneasiness and pain, as well as loathing. And that they produce a worse 
effect upon the persons employed in them, is a fact acknowledged by that law 
or custom which excludes such persons from sitting on juries upon cases of life 
and death." 

This is a fair specimen of Mr. Southey's mode of looking at all moral ques- 
tions. Here is a body of men engaged in an employment, which, by his own 
account, is beneficial, not only to mankind, but to the very creatures on whom 
we feed. Yet he represents them as men who are necessarily reprobates — as 
men who must necessarily be reprobates, even in the most improved state of 
society — even, to use his own phrase, in a Christian Utopia. And what rea- 
sons are given for a judgment so directly opposed to every principle of sound 
and manly morality? Merely this, that he cannot abide the sight of their • 
apparatus — that, from certain peculiar associations, he is affected wi*^ disgust 
when he passes by their sho]>s. He gives, indeed, another reason ; s. certain 
law or custom, which never existed but in the imaginations of old women, and 


which, if it had existed, would have proved just as much against butchers as 
the ancient prejudice against the practice of taking interest for money, proves 
against the merchants of England. Is a surgeon a castaway ? We believe 
that nurses, when they instruct childrA in that venerable law or custop-^ which 
Mr. Southey so highly approves, generally join the surgeon to the iiutcher. 
A dissecting-room would, we should think, affect the nerves of most people as 
much as a butcher's shambles. But the most amusing circumstance is, that 
Mr. Southey, who detests a butcher, should look with special favour on a sol- 
dier. He seems highly to approve of the sentiment of General Meadows, 
who swore that a grenadier was the highest character in this world or in 
the next ; and assures us, that a virtuous soldier is placed in the situation 
which most tends to his improvement, and will most promote his eternal 
interests. Human blood, indeed, is by no means an object of so much loathmg 
to Mr. Southey, as the hides and paunches of cattle. In 1814, he poured 
forth poetical maledictions on all who talked of peace with Buonapaxte. He 
went over the field of Waterloo, — a field, beneath which twenty thousand of 
the stoutest hearts that ever beat are mouldering, — and came back in an 
ecstasy, which he mistook for poetical inspiration. In most of his poems, — 
particularly in his best poem, Roderick, — and in most of his prose works, par- 
ticularly in the history of the Peninsular War, he shows a delight in snuffing 
up carnage, which would not have misbecome a Scandinavian bard, but which 
sometimes seems to harmonize ill with the Christian morality. We do not, 
however, blame Mr. Southey for exulting, even a little ferociously, in the 
brave deeds of his countrymen, or for finding something *' comely and 
reviving " in the bloody vengeance inflicted by an oppressed people on its op- 
pressors. Now, surely, if we find that a man whose business is to kill 
Frenchmen may be humane, we may hope that means may be found to render 
a man humane whose business is to kill sheep. If the brutalizing effect of 
such scenes as the storm of St. Sebastian may be counteracted, we may hope 
that in a Christian Utopia, some minds might be proof against the kennels 
and dressers of Aldgate. Mr. Southey's feeling, however, is easily explained. 
A butcher's knife is by no means so elegant as a sabre, and a calf does not 
bleed with half the grace of a poor wounded hussar. 

It is in the same manner that Mr. Southey appears to have formed his 
opinion of the manufacturing system. There is nothing which he hates so 
bitterly. It is, according to him, a system more tyrannical than that of the feudal 
ages, — a system of actual servitude, — a system which destroys the bodies and 
degrades the minds of those who -are engaged in it. He expresses a hope that 
the competition of other nations may drive us out of the field ; that our foreign 
trade may decline, and that we may thus enjoy a restoration of national sanit^^ 
and strength. But he seems to think that the extermination of the who!-: 
manufacturing population would be a blessing, if the evil could be removed in 
no other way. 

Mr. Southey does not bring forward a single fact in support of these view.-:;, 
and, as it seems to us, there are facts which lead to a very difterent conclusion. 
In the first place, the poor-rate is very decidedly lower in the manufacturirig^ 
than in the agricultural districts. If Mr. Southey will look over the Parlia- 
mentary returns on this subject, he will find that the amount of parish relief 
required by the labourers in the different counties of England, is almost 
exactly in inverse proportion to the degree in which the manufacturing system 
has been introduced into those counties. The returns for the years ending in 
March 1825, and in March 1828, are now before us. In the former year, we 
find the poor-rate highest in Sussex, — about twenty shillings to every inhabi- 
tant. Then come Buckinghamshire, Essex, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Hunting- 


donshire, Kent, and Norfolk. In all these the rate is above fifteen shillings 
a-head. We will not go through the whole. Even in Westmoreland, and the 
North Riding of Yorkshire, the ratj is at more than eight shillings. In 
Cumberland and Monmouthshire, the most fortunate of all the agricultural 
districts, it is at six shillings. But in the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is as 
lovfr as five shillings ; and when we come to Lancashire, we find it at four 
shillings, — one-fifth of what it is in Sussex. The returns of the year ending 
in March, 1828, arc a little, and but a little, more unfavourable to the 
manufacturing districts. Lancashire, even in that season of distress, required 
a smaller poor-rate than any other district, and little more than one-fourth of 
the poor-rate raised in Sussex. Cumberland alone, of the agricultural 
districts, was as well off as the West Riding of Yorkshire. These facts seem 
to indicate that the manufacturer is both in a more comfortable and in a less 
dependent situation than the agricultural labourer. 

As to the effect of the manufacturing system on the bodily health, we must 
beg leave to estimate it by a standard far too low and vulgar for a mind so 
imaginative as that of Mr. Southey — the proportion of births and deaths. We 
know that, during the growth of this atrocious system — this new misery, — (we 
use the phrases of Mr. Southey,) — this new enormity — this birth of a porten- 
tous age — this pest, which no man can approve whose heart is not seared, or 
whose understanding has not been darkened — there has been a great diminu- 
tion of mortality — and that this diminution has been greater in the manufac- 
turing towns than anywhere else. The mortality still is, as it always was, 
greater in towns than in the country. But the difference has diminished in an 
extraordinary degree. There is the best reason to believe that the annual 
•nortality of Manchester about the middle of the last century was one in tvi-enty- 
eight ; it is now reckoned at one in forty-five. In Glasgow and Leeds a simi- 
lar improvement has taken place. Nay, the rate of mortality in those three 
great capitals of the manufacturing districts is now considerably less than it 
vvas fifty years ago over England and Wales taken together — open country and 
all. We might with some plausibility maintain that the people live longer 
because they are better fed, better lodged, better clothed, and better attended 
in sickness ; and that these iraorovements are owing to that increase of national 
wealth which the manufacturing system has produced. 

Much more might be said on this subject. But to what end ? It is not 
from bills of mortality and statistical tables tUat Mr. Southey has learned his 
political creed. He cannot stoop to study the history of the system which he 
abuses — to strike the balance between the good and evil which it has produced 
—to compare district with district, or generation with generation. We will 
Rive his own reason for his opinion — the only reason which he gives for it — in 
his own words : — 

" We remained awhik in silence, looking upon the assemblage of dwellings below. Here, 
and in the adjoining hamlet of Millbeck, the effects of manufactures and of agriculture may 
be seen and compared. The old cottages are such as the poet and the painter equally 
delight in beholding. Substantially built of the native stone without mortar, dirtied with no 
white lime, and their long, low roofs covered with slate, if they had been raised by the 
magic of some indigenous Amphion's music, the materials could not have adjusted them- 
selves more beautifully in accord with the surrounding scene ; and time has still further 
harmonized them with weather-stains, lichens, and moss, short grasses, and short fern, and 
stone-plants of various kinds. The ornamented chimneys, round or square, less adorned 
than those which, like little turrets, crest the houses of the Portuguese peasantry ; and yet 
not less happily suited to their place, the hedge of dipt box beneath the windows, the rose- 
busheslbesule the door, the little patch of flower-ground, with its tall hollyhocks in front ; the 
gaiicn beside, the bee-hives, and the orchard with its bank of dalTodils and snow-drops, the 
earnest and the profusest in these parts, indicate in the owners some portion of ease and 
kisure. some rej<;ard to npatness and cooiliort, some sens* of natural, and innocent, and 


healthful enioyment. ^ The new cottages of the manufacturers are upon the manufacturing 
pattern — naked, and in a row. 

"How is it, said I, that everything which is connected with manufactures presents such 
features of unqualified deformity ? From the largest of Mammon's temples down to the 
poorest hovel in which his helotry are stalled, these edifices have all one character. Time 
will not mellow them ; nature will neither clothe nor conceal them ; and they will remain 
always as offensive to the eye as to the mind." , 

Here is wisdom. Here are the principles on which nations are to be go- 
vemed. Rose-bushes and poor-rates, rather than steam-engines and independ- 
ence. Mortality and cottages with weather-stains, rather than health and 
long life with edifices which time cannot mellow. We are told that our age 
has invented atrocities beyond the imagination of our fathers ; that society has 
been brought into a state compared with which extermination would be a 
blessing ;— and all because the dwellings of cotton-spinners are naked and rect- 
angular. Mr. Southey has found out a way, he tells us, in which the effects 
of manufactures and agriculture may be compared. And what is this way ? To 
stand on a hill, to look at a cottage and a manufactory, and to see which is the 
' prettier. Does Mr. Southey think that the body of the English peasantry live, 
or ever lived, in substantial and ornamented cottages, with box-edges, flower- 
gardens, bee-hives, and orchards? If not, what is his parallel worth? We despise 
thoze Jilosflfastri, who think that they serve the cause of science by depreciating 
literature and the fine arts. But if anything could excuse their narrowness of 
mind, it would be such a book as this. It is not strange that when one enthu- 
siast makes the picturesque the test of political good, another should f^el in- 
clined to proscribe altogether the pleasures of taste and imagination. 

Thus it is that Mr. Southey reasons about matters with which he thinks 
himself perfectly conversant. We cannot, therefore, be surprised to find that 
he commits extraordinary blunders when he writes on points of which he ac- 
knowledges himself to be ignorant. He confesses that he is not versed in poli- 
tical economy — that he has neither liking nor aptitude for it ; and he then 
proceeds to read the public a lecture concerning it which fully bears out his 

** All wealth," says Sir Thomas More, "in former times was tangible. It 
consisted in land, money, or chattels, which were- either of real or conven- 
tional value. " 

Montesinos, as Mr. Southey somewhat affectedly calls himself, answers : — 

"Jewels, for example, and pictures, as in Holland, — where indeed at one 
time tulip bulbs answered the same purpose." 

"That bubble," says Sir Thomas, " was one of those contagious insanities 
to which communities are subject. All wealth was real, till the extent of 
commerce rendered a paper currency necessary ; which differed from pre- 
cious stones and pictures in this important point, that there was no limit to 
its production." 

" We regard it," says Montesinos, "as the representative of real wealth ; 
and, therefore, limited always to the amount of what it represents." 

"Pursue that notion," answers the ghost, "and you will be in the dark 
presently. Your provincial bank-notes, wtiich constitute almost wholly the 
circulating medium of certain districts, pass current to-day. To-morrow, 
tidings may come that the house which issued them has stopped payment, and 
what do they represent then? You will find them the shadow of a shade." 

We scarcely know at which end to begin to disentangle this knot of 
absurdities. We might ask why it should be a greater proof of insanity in 
men to set a high value on rare tulips than on rare stones, which are neither 
more useful nor more beautiful ? We might ask how it can be said that 
there is no limit to the production of paper money when a man is hanged Ji 


he issues any in the name of another, and is forced to cash what he issues in 
his own? But Mr, Southey's error lies deeper still. "All wealth," says he, 
*' was tangible and real till paper currency was introduced." Now, was there 
ever, since men emerged from a state of utter barbarism, an age in which there 
were no debts? Is not a debt, while the solvency of the debtor is undoubted, 
always reckoned as part of the wealth of the creditor ? Yet is it tangible and 
real wealth ? Does it cease to be wealth, because there is the security of a 
■written acknowledgment for it? And what else is paper currency? Did 
Mr. Southey ever read a bank-note? If he did, he would see that it is a 
written acknowledgment of a debt, and a promise to pay that debt. The 
promise may be violated — the debt may remain unpaid — those to whom it was 
due may suffer. : but this is a risk not confined to cases of paper currency — it 
is a risk inseparable from the relation of debtor and creditor. Every man who 
sells goods for anything but ready money runs the risk of finding that what 
he considered as part of his wealth one day is nothing at all the next day. 
Mr. Southey refers to the picture galleries of Holland. The pictures were 
undoubtedly real and tangible possessions. But surely, it might happen that 
a burgomaster might owe a picture-dealer a thousand guilders for a Teniers. 
What in this case corresponds to our paper money is not the picture, which 
is tangible, but the claim of the picture-dealer on his customer for the 
price of the picture, which is not tangible. Now, would not the picture- 
dealer consider this claim as part of his wealth? Would not a trades- 
man who knew of it give credit to the picture dealer the more readily on 
account of it ? The burgomaster might be ruined. If so, would nob those 
consequences follow which, as Mr. Southey tells us, were never heard of till 
paper money came into use ? Yesterday this claim was worth a thousand 
guilders. To-day what is it ? The shadow of a shade. 

It is true that the more readily claims of this sort are transferred fi'om hand 
to hand, the more extensive will be the injury produced by a single failure. 
The laws of all nations sanction, in certain cases, the transfer of rights not yet 
reduced into possession, Mr. Southey would scarcely wish, we should think, 
that all endorsements of bills And notes should be declared invalid. Yet even 
if this were done the transfer of claims would imperceptibly take place to a 
very great extent. When the baker trusts the butcher, for example, he is in 
fact, though not in form, trusting the butcher's customers. A man who owes 
large bills to tradesmen and fails to pay them, almost always produces distress 
through a very wide circle of people whom he never dealt with. 

In short, what Mr. Southey takes for a difference in kind, is only a difference 
of form and degree. In every society men have claims on the property of 
others. In every society there is a possibility that some debtors may not be 
able to fulfil their obligations. In every society, therefore, there is wealth 
which is not tangible, and which may become the shadow of a shade, 

Mr. Southey then proceeds to a dissertation on the national debt, which he 
considers in a new and most consolatory light, as a clear addition to the income 
of the country. 

** You can understand," says Sir Thomas, " that it constitutes a great part 
or tne national wealth." 

** So large a part," answers Montesinos, ** that the interest amounted, 
during the prosperous time of agriculture, to as much as the rental of all the 
laud in Great Britain ; and at present to the rental of all lanas, all houses, 
•Tud all other fixed property put together." 

The ghost and the Laureate agree that it is very desirable that there should 
be so secure and advantageous a deposit for wealth as the funds afford. bK 
Tliomas then proceeds : — 


" Another and far more momentous benefit must not be overlooked ; the 
expenditure of an annual interest, equalling, as you have stated, the present 
rental of all fixed property." 

"That expenditure," quoth Montesinos, "gives employment to half the 
industry in the kingdom, and feeds half the mouths. Take, indeed, 'die 
weight of the national debt from this great and complicated social machine, 
and the wheels must stop." 

From this passage we should have been inclined to think that Mr. Southey 
supposes the dividend to be a free-gift periodically sent down from heaven to 
the fundholders, as quails and manna were sent to the Israelites ; were it not 
that he has vouchsafed, in the following question and answer, to give the 
public some information which, we believe, was very little needed. 

" Whence comes the interest ? " says Sir Thomas. 

** It is raised," answers Montesinos, " by taxation." 

Now, has Mr. Southey ever considered what would be done with this sum 
if it were not paid as interest to the national creditor? If he would think 
over this matter for a short time, we suspect that the "momentous benefit" 
of which he talks would appear to him to shrink strangely in amount. A 
fundholder, we will suppose, spends an income of five hundred pounds a-year, 
and his ten nearest neighbours pay fifty pounds each to the tax-gatherer, tor 
the purpose of discharging the interest of the national debt. If the debt were 
wiped out — a measure, be it understood, which we Dy no means recommend — 
the fundholder would cease to spend his five hundred pounds a-year. He 
would no longer give emplojonent to industry, or put food into the mouths of 
labourers. 1 his Mr. Southey thinks a fearful evil. But is there no mitigating 
circumstance? Each of his ten neighbours has fifty pounds more than 
formerly. Each of them will, as it seems to our feeble understandings, em- 
ploy more industry, and feed more mouths, than formerly. The sum is exacdy 
the ^ame. It is in different hands. But on what grounds does Mr. Southey 
call upon us to believe that it is in the hands of men who will spend less 
liberally or less judiciously? He seems to think that nobody but a fundholder 
can employ the poor ; that if a tax is remitted,' those who formerly used to 
pay it proceed immediately to dig holes in the earth, and bury the sum which 
the government had been accustomed to take ; that no money can set industry 
in motion till it has been taken by the tax-gatherer out of one man's pocket 
and put into another man's. We really wish that Mr. Southey would try to 
prove this principle, which is, indeed, the foundation of his whole theory of 
finance ; for we think it right to hint to him that our hard-nearted and unima- 
ginative generation will expect some more satisfactory reason than the only one 
with which he has yet favoured it, — a similitude touching evaporation and dew. 

Both the theory and the illustration, indeed, are old friends of ours. In 
every season of distress which we can remember, Mr. Southey has been pro- 
claiming that it is not from economy, but from increased taxation, that the 
country must expect relief; and he still, we find, places the undoubting faith of 
a political Diafoirus, in his 

"Resaignare, rcpurgare, et reclyaterizare." 

**A people," he tells us, "may be too rich, but a government cannot be so." 
** A state," says he, " cannot have more v.ealth at its command ihan may 
be employed for the general good, a liberal expenditure in national works 
being one of the surest means for promoting national prosperity ; and the 
benefit being still more obvious, of an expenditure directed to the purposes of 
national improvement. But a people may be too rich." 
We fully adrnit that a state cannot have at its command more wealth thui 


may he employed for the general good. But neither can individuals, or bodies 
of individuals, have at their command more wealth than may be employed for 
the general good. If there be no limit to the sum which may be usefully laid 
out in public works and national improvement, then wealth, whether in the 
hands of private men or of the government, may always, if the possessors 
choose to spend it usefully, be usefully spent. The only ground, therefore, 
on which Mr. Southey can possibly maintain that a government cannot be too 
rich, but that a people may be too rich, must be this : that governments are 
more likely to spend their money oa good objects than private individuals. 

But what is useful expenditure ? "A liberal expenditure in national works, " 
gays Mr. Southey, "is one of the surest means for promoting national pros- 
perity." Does he mean the wealth of the state? If so, his reasoning runs 
thus : — The more wealth a state has the better ; for the more wealth a state 
has, the more wealth it will have. This is surely something like that fa .lacy 
which is ungallantly termed a lady's reason. If by national prosperity he 
means the wealth of the people, of how gross a contradiction is he guilty. A 
people, he tells us, may be too rich — a government cannot — for a government 
can employ its riches in making the people richer. The wealth of the people 
is to be taken from them, because they have too much, and laid out in works 
which will yield them more. 

vVe are really at a loss to determine whether Mr. Southey's reason for recom- 
mending large taxation is that it will make the people rich, or that it will make 
them poor. But we are sure, that if his object is to make them rich, he takes 
the wrong course. There are two or three principles respecting public works 
which, as an experience of vast extent proves, may be trusted in almost every 

It scarcely ever happens that any private man, or body of men, will invest 
property in a canal, a tunnel, or a bridge, but from an expectation that the 
outlay will be profitable to them. No work of this sort can be profitable to 
private speculators, unless the public be willing to pay for the use of it. The 
public will not pay of their own accord for what yields no profit or convenience 
to them. There is thus a direct and obvious connection between the motive 
which induces individuals to undertake such a work, and the utility of the 

Can we find any such connection in the case of a public work executed by 
a government ? If it is useful, are the individuals who rule the country richer? 
If it is useless, are they poorer ? A public man may be solicitous for his 
credit ; but is not he likely to gain more credit by an useless display of osten- 
tatious architecture in a great town than by the best road or the best canal in 
some remote province ? The fame of public works is a much less certain test 
of their utility than the amount of toll collecteti at them. In a corrupt age, 
there will be direct embezzlement. In the purest age, there will be abundance 
of jobbing. Never were the statesmen of any country more sensitive to public 
opinion, and more spotless in pecuniary transactions, than those who have of 
late governed England. Yet we have only to look at the buildings recently 
erected in London for a proof of our rule. In a bad age, the fate of the 
public is to be robbed. In a good age, it is much milder — merely to have the 
dearest and the worst of everything. 

Buildings for state purposes the state must erect. And here we think that, 
in general, the state ought to stop. We firmly believe that five hundred thou- 
sand pounds subscribed by individuals for railroads or canals would produce 
more advantage to the public than five millions voted by Parliament for thf. 
same purpose. There are certain old saws about the master's eye find about 
tfverjf body's business in which we place very great faith. 


There is, we have said, no consistency in Mr. Southey's political system. 
But if there be in it any leading principle, if there be any one error which 
diverges more widely and variously than any other, it is that of which his theory 
about national works is a ramification. He conceives that the business of the 
magistrate is not merely to see that the persons and property of the people are 
secure from attack, but that he ought to be a perfect jack-of-all-trades, — archi- 
tect, engineer, schoolmaster, merchant, theologian, — a Lady Bountiful in every 
parish, — a Paul Pry in eveiy house, spying, eaves-dropping, relieving, admo- 
nishing, spending our money for us, and choosing our opinions for us. His 
principle is, if we understand it rightly, that no man can do anything so well 
for himself as his rulers, be they who they may, can do it for him ; i\i'J. a 
government approaches nearer and nearer to perfection in proportion as it 
interferes more and more with the habits and notions of individuals. 

He seems to be fully convinced that it is in the power of government to 
relieve the distresses under which the lower orders labour. Naj?^, he considers 
doubt on this subject as impious. We cannot refrain from quoting his argu- 
ment on tills subject. It is a perfect jewel of logic. 

"Many thousands in your metropolis," says Sir Thomas More, " rise every morning with- 
out knowing how they ai"e to subsist during the day ; as many of them, where they are tci 
lay their heads at night. All men, even the vicious themselves, know that wickedness leads 
to misery ; but many, even among the good and the wise, have yet to learn that misery is 
almost as often the cause of wickedness." 

" There are many," says Montesinos, "who know this, but believe that it is not in the 
power of human institutions to prevent this misery. They see the effect, but regard tlie 
causes as inseparable from the condition of human nature." 

"As surely as God is good," replies Sir Thomas, "so surely there is no such thing as 
necessary evil. For, by the religious mind, sickness, and pain, and death, are not to be ac- 
counted evils." 

Now, if sickness, pain, and death are not evils, we cannot understand why 
it should be an evil that thousands should rise without knowing how they are 
to subsist. The only evil of hunger is that it produces first pain, then sick- 
ness, and finally death. If it did not produce these it would be no calamity. 
If these are not evils, it is no calamity. We cannot conceive why it should be 
a greater impeachment of the Divine goodness, that some men should not be 
able to find food to eat, than that others should have stomachs which derive no 
nourishment from food when they have eaten it. Whatever physical effects 
want produces may also be produced by disease. Whatever salutary effects 
disease may produce may also be produced by want. If poverty makes men 
thieves, disease and pain often sour the temper and contract the heart. 

We will propose a very plain dilemma. Either physical pain is an evil, or 
it is not an evil. If it is evil, then there is necessary evil in the universe. If 
it is not, why should the poor be delivered from it ? 

Mr. Southey entertains as exaggerated a notion of the wisdom of govern- 
ments as of their power. He speaks with the greatest disgust of the respect 
now paid to public opinion. That opinion is, according to him, to be dis- 
trusted and dreaded ; its usurpation ought to be vigorously resisted, and the 
practice of yielding to it is likely to ruin the countiy. To maintain police is, 
according to him, only one of the ends of government. Its duties are patri- 
archal and paternal. It ought to consider the moral discipline of the people 
as its first object, to establish a religion, to train the whole community in 
that religion, and to consider all dissenters as its own enemies. 

" Nothing," says Sir Thomas, "is more certain than that religion Is the basis upon which 
civil government rests; that from religion power derives Us authority. Jaws their efficacy, 
and lx)th their zeal and sanction; and it is necessary that this religion be established as for 
tlie security of the state, and for the welfare of the people, who would otherwise be moved 
w and fro with «v$ry win4 <rf doctrine. A state is secure in proportion as the people are 


ittached to its institutions ; it is, therefore, the first and plainest rule of sound policy, thattha 
people be trained up in the way they should go. The state that neglects this_ prepares its 
own destruction ; and they who train them iu any other way are undermining it Nothing 
in abstract science can be more certain than these positions are," 

"All of which," answers Montesinos, "are nevertheless denied by OMr professors of the arts 
iBabblative and Scribblative ; some in the audacity of evil designs, and others in the glorious 
•^surance of impenetrable ignorance." 

The greater part of the two volumes before us is merely an amplification of 
these absurd paragraphs. What does Mr. South ey mean by saying that re- 
ligion is demonstrably the basis of civil government ? He cannot surely mean 
that men have no motives except those derived from religion for establishing 
wnd supporting civil government, that no temporal advantage is derived from 
civil government, that man vi^ould experience no temporal inconvenience from 
living in a state of anarchy ? If he allows, as we think he must allow, that it 
is for the good of mankind in this world to have civil government, and that 
the great majority of mankind have always thought it for their good in this 
world to have civil government, we then have a basis for government quite 
distinct from religion. It is true that the Christian religion sanctions govern- 
ment as it sanctions everything which promotes the happiness and virtue of 
our species. But we are at a loss to conceive in what sense religion can be 
said to be the basis of government, in which it is not also the basis of the 
practices of eating, drinking, and lighting fires in cold weather. Nothing in 
history is more certain than that government has existed, has received some 
obedience and given some protection, in times in which it derived no support 
from religion, — in times in which there was no religion that influenced the 
hearts and lives of men. It was not from dread of Tartarus, or belief in the 
Elysian fields, that an Athenian wished to have some institutions which might 
keep Orestes from filching his cloak, or Midias from breaking his head. '• It 
is from religion," says Mr. Southey, '*that power derives its authority, and 
laws their efficacy." From what religion does our power over the Hindoos 
derive its authority, or the law in virtue of which we hang Brahmins its effi- 
cacy ? For thousands of years civil government has existed in almost every 
corner of the world, — in ages of priestcraft, — in ages of fanaticism, — in ages of 
Epicurean indifference, — in ages of enlightened piety. However pure or impure 
the faith of the people might be ; whether they adored a beneficent or a malig- 
nant power ; whether they thought the soul mortal or immortal, they have, as 
soon as they ceased to be absolute savages, found out their need of civil 
government, and instituted it accordingly. It is as universal as the practice 
of cookery. Yet it is as certain, says Mr. Southey, as any thing in ab- 
stract science, that government is founded on religion. We should like to 
know what notion Mr. Southey ha^ of the demonstrations of abstract science. 
But a vague one, we suspect. - " 

The proof proceeds. As religion is the basis of government, and as the 
state is secure in proportion as the people are attached to its institutions, it is 
therefore, says Mr. Southey, the first rule of policy that the government 
should train the people in the way in which they should go : and it is plain 
that those who train them in any other way are undermining the state. 

Now, it does not appear to us to be the first object that people should always 
believe in the established religion, and be attached to the established govern- 
ment. A religion may be false. A governrtient may be oppressive. And 
whatever support government gives to false religions, or religion to oppressive 
governments, we consider as a clear evil. 

The maxin:! that governments ought to train the people in the way in 
which they should go sounds well. But is there any reason for bclievirtg 
that a government is more likely to lead the people in the right way than the 


people to fall in*;o the right way of themselves? Have there not been 
governments M^hich were blind leaders of the blind ? Are there not still such 
governments ? Can it be laid down as a general rule that the movement of 
political and religious truth is rather downwards from the government to the 
people than upwards from the people to the government? These are 
questions which it is of importance to have clearly resolved. Mr. Southey 
declaims against public opinion, which is now, he tells us, usurping supreme 
power. Formerly, according to him, the laws governed ; now public opinion 
governs. What are laws but expressions of the opinion of some class which 
has power over the rest of the community? By what was the world ever 
governed, but by the opinion of some person or persons ? By what else can 
it ever be governed? What are all systems, religious, political, or scientific, 
but opinions resting on evidence more or less satisfactory ? The question is 
not between human opinion, and some higher and more certain mode of 
arriving at truth, but between opinion and opinion, — between the opinion of 
one man and another, or of one class and another, or of one generation and 
another. Public opinion is not infallible ; but can Mr. Southey construct 
any institutions wh'ch shall secure to us the guidance of an infallible opinion ? 
Can Mr. Southey select any family, — any profession — any class, in short, 
distinguished by any plain badge from the rest of the community, whose 
opinion is more likely to be just than this much-abused public opinion? 
Would he choose the peers, for example ? Or the two hundred tallest men 
in the country? Or the poor Knights of Windsor? Or children who are 
bom with cawls, seventh sons of seventh sons ? We cannot suppose that he 
would recommend popular election ; for that is merely an appeal to public 
opinion. And to say that society ought to be governed by the opinion of the 
wisest and best, though true, is useless. Whose opinion is to decide who 
are the wisest and best? 

Mr. Southey and many other respectable people seem to think that when 
they have once proved the moral and religious training of the people to be a 
most important object, it follows, of course, that it is an object which the 
government ought to pursue. They forget that we have to consider, not 
merely the goodness of the end, but also the fitness of the means. Neither 
in the natural nor in the political body have all members the same office. 
There is surely no contradiction in saying that a certain section of the com- 
munity may be quite competent to protect the persons and property of the 
rest, yet quite unfit to direct our opinions, or to superintend our private habits. 

So strong is the interest of a ruler to protect his subjects against all depre- 
dations and outrages except his own, — so clear and simple are the means by 
which this end is to be effected, that men are probably better off under the 
worst governments in the world than they would be in a state of anarchy. 
Even when the appointment of magistrates has been left to chance, as in the 
Italian Republics, things have gone on better than they would have done, if 
there had been no magistrates at all, and every man had done what seemed 
right in his own eyes. But we see no reason for thinking that the opinions 
of the magistrate are more likely to be right than those of any other man. 
None of the modes by which rulers are appointed, — popular election, the 
accident of the lot, or the accident of birth,— afford, as far as we can perceive, 
much security for their being wiser than any of their neighbours. The chance 
of their being wiser than all their neighbours together is still smaller. Now 
we cannot conceive how it can be laid down, that it is the duty and the right 
of one class to direct the opinions of another, unless it can be proved that the 
former class is more likely to form just opinions than the latter. 

The duties of government would be, as Mr, Soutl ey says that they ar«u 


paternal if a government were »«v,essarily as much superior in wisdom to a 
people, as the most foolish ^'^^^e^* ^^"^ a time, is to the most intelligent child, 
and if a governme^* lOved a people as fathers generally love their children. 
But there i«: -'-' ^^^.son to believe that a government will either have the 

J. „j warmth of affection or the paternal superiority of intellect. Mr. 
c-^uthey might as well say that the duties of the shoemaker are paternal, and 
that it is an usurpation in any man not of the craft to say that his shoes are 
bad, and to insist on having better. The division of labour would be no 
blessing, if those by whom a thing is done were to pay no attention to the 
opinion of those for whom it is done. The shoemaker, in the Relapse, tells 
Lord Foppington that his lordship is mistaken in supposing that his shoe 
pinches. " It does not pinch — it cannot pinch — I know my business — and I 
never made a better shoe." This is the way in which Mr. Southey would 
have a government treat a people who usurp the privilege of thinking. Nay, 
the shoemaker of Vanburgh has the advantage in the comparison. He con- 
tented himself with regulating his customer's shoes, about which he knew 
something, and did not presume to dictate about the coat and hat. But 
Mr. Southey would have the rulers of a country prescribe opinions to the 
people, not only about politics, but about matters concerning which a 
government has no peculiar sources of information, — concerning which any 
man in the streets may know as much, and think as justly, as a king, — 
religion and morals. 

Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it 
freely. A government can interfere in discussion only by making it less free 
than it would otherwise be. Men are most likely to form just opinions when 
they have no other wish than to know the truth, and are exempt from all in- 
fluence, either of hope or fear. Government, as government, can bring nothing 
but the influence of hopes and fears to support its doctrines. It carries on 
controversy, not with reasons, but with threats and bribes. If it employs 
reasons, it does so not in virtjie of any powers which belong to it as a govern- 
ment. Thus, instead of a contest between argument and argument, we have a 
contest between argument and force. Instead of a contest in which truth, 
from the natural constitution of the human mind, has a decided advantage 
over falsehood, we have a contest in which truth can be victorious only by 

And what, after all, is the security which this training gives to governments ? 
Mr. Southey would scarcely recommend that discussion should be more effec- 
tually shackled, that public opinion should be more strictly disciplined into 
conformity with established institutions, than in Spain and Italy. Yet we 
know that the restraints which exist in Spain and Italy have not prevented 
atheism from spreading among the educated classes, and especially among 
those whose office it is to minister at the altars of God. All our readers know 
how, at the time of the French Revolution, priest after priest came forward to 
declare that his doctrine, his ministry, his whole life, had been a lie — a mum- 
mery during which he could scarcely compose his countenance sufficiently to 
carry on the imposture. This was the case of a false, or at least a grossly 
corrupted religion. Let us take, then, the case of all other-, the most favour- 
able to Mr. Southey's argument. Let us take that form of religion which he 
holds to be the purest — the system of the Arminian part of the Church of 
England. Let us take the form of government which he most admires and 
regrets — the government of England in the time of Charles I. Would 
he wish to see a closer connection between Church and State than then existed ? 
Would he wish for more powerful ecclesiastical tribunals ? for a more zealous 
kiag? for a more active primate? Would he wish to sec a more completa 


monopoly of public instruction given lo ^he Established Church ? Could any 
government do more to tram the. people in a.<. way in M^hich he would have 
them go? And in what did all this training endt T^e report of the state 
of the province of Canterbury, delivered by Laud to his ii..^ter at the close of " 
1639, represents the Church of England as in the highest an^ rnost calmv 
state. So effectually had the government pursued that policy wn-i^i; yil 
Southey wishes to see i-evived that there was scarcely the least appearance vJf 
dissent. Most of the bishops stated that all was v/ell among their flocks. 
Seven or eight persons in the diocese of Peterborough had seemed • efractory 
to the Church, but had made ample submission. In Norfolk and Suffolk all 
whom there had been reason . to suspect had made profession of conformity, 

. and appeared to observe it strictly. It is confessed that there was a little 
difficulty in bringing some of the vulgar in Suffolk to take the sacrament at 
the rails in the chancel. This was the only open instance of non- conformity 
which the vigilant eye of Laud could find in all the dioceses of his twenty-one 
suffragans, on the very eve of a revolution in which primate and Church, and 
monarch and monarchy, were to perish together. 

At which time would Mr. Southey pronounce the Constitution more secure 
— in 1639, when Laud presented this report to Charles, or now, when thou- 
sands of meetings openly collect millions of dissenters, when designs against 
the tithes are openly avowed, when books attacking not only the establish- 
ment, but the first principles of Christianity, are openly sold in the streets ? 
The signs of discontent, he tells us, are stronger in England now than in 
France when the States-General met ; and hence he would have us infer that 
a revolution like that of France may be at hand. Does he not know that the 
danger of states is to be estimated, not by what breaks out of the public mind, 
but by what stays in it ? Can he conceive anything more terrible than the 
situation of a government which rules without apprehension over a people of 
hypocrites, — which is flattered by the press and cursed in the inner chambers, 
— which e:*ilts in the attachment and obedience of its subjects, and knows not 
that those subjects are leagued against it in a free-masonry of hatred, the sign 
of which is every day conveyed in the glance of ten thousand eyes, the pressure 
of ten thousand hands, and the tone of ten thousand voices ? Profound and 
ingenious policy ! Instead of curing the disease, to remove those symptoms 
by which alone its nature can be known ! To leave the serpent his deadly 
sting, and deprive him only of his warning rattle ! 

' When the people whom Charles had so assiduously trained in the good way 
fcad rewarded his paternal care by cutting off his head, a new kind of training 
came into fashion. Another government arose, which, like the former, con- 
sidered religion as its surest basis, and the religious discipline of the people as 
its first duty. Sanguinary laws were enacted against libertinism ; profane 
pictures were burned ; drapery was put on indecorous statues ; the theatres 
were shut up ; fast-days were numerous : and the Parliament resolved that no 

•person should be admitted into any public employment unless the House 
should be first satisfied of his vital godliness. We know what was the end of 
this training. We know that it ended in impiety, in filthy and heartless sen- 
suality, in the dissolution of all ties of honour and morality. We know that 
at this very day scriptural phrases, scriptural names, perhaps some scriptural 
doctrines, excite disgust and ridicule, solely because they are associated with 
the austerity of that period. 

Thus has the experiment of training the people in established forms of 
religion been twice tried in England on a lai-ge scale, once by Charles 
and Laud, and once by the Puritans. The High Tories of our time still 
entertain many of the feelings and opinions of Charles and Laud, thoTigb 


in a mitigated form ; nor is it difficult to see that the heirs of the Puritans are 
still amongst us. It would be desirable that each of these parties should 
remember how little advantage or honour it formerly derived from the closest 
alliance wnth power, — that it fell by the support of rulers, and rose by their 
opposition, — that of the two systems, that in which the people were at any 
time being drilled, was always at that time the unpopular system, — that the 
training of the High Church ended in the reign of the Puritans, and the train- 
ing of the Puritans in the reign of the harlots. 

This was quite natural. Nothing is so galling and detestable to a people 
not broken in from the birth, as a paternal, or, in other words, a meddling 
government, — a government which tells them what to read, and say, and eat, 
and drink, and wear. Our fathers could not bear it two hundred years ago ; 
and we are not more patient than they. Mr. Southey thinks that the yoke of 
the Church is dropping off, because it is loose. We feel convinced that it is 
borne only because it is easy, and that, in the instant in which an attempt is 
made to tighten it, it will be flung away. It will be neither the first nor the 
strongest yoke that has been broken asunder and trampled under foot in the 
day of the vengeance of England. ' 

How far Mr. Southey would have the government carry its measures for 
training the people in the doctrines of the Church, we are unable to discover. 
In one passage Sir Thomas More asks with great vehemence, 

**Is it possible that your laws should suffer the unbelievers to exist 
as a party ? 

** Vetitum est adeo sceleris nihil?" 

Montesinos answers. *' They avow themselves in defiance of the laws. The 
fashionable doctrine which the press at this time maintains is, that this is a 
matter in which the laws ought not to interfere, every man having a right, 
both to form what opinion he pleases upon religious subjects, and to promul- 
gate that opinion." 

It is clear, therefore, that Mr. Southey would not give full and perfect tolera- 
tion to infidelity. In another passage, however, he observes with some truth, 
though too sweepingly, that **any degree of intolerance short of that full extent 
which the Papal Church exercises where it has power, acts upon the opinions 
which it is intended to suppress, like pruning upon vigorous plants ; they 
grow the stronger for it." These two passages put together would lead us to 
the conclusion that, in Mr. Southey's opinion, the utmost severity ever em- 
ployed by the Roman Catholic Church in the days of its greatest power, ought 
to be employed against unbelievers in England ; in plain words, that Carlile 
and his shopmen ought to be burned in Smithfield, and that every person who, 
when called upon, should decline to make a solemn profession of Christianity, 
ought to suffer the same fate. We do not, however, believe that Mr. Southey 
would recommend such a course, though his language would, in the case of 
any other writer, justify us in supposing this to be his meaning. His opinions 
form no system at all. He never sees, at one glance, more of a question than 
will furnish matter for one flowing and well-turned sentence ; so that it would 
be the height of unfairness to charge him personally with holding a doctrine, 
merely because that doctrine is deducible, though by the closest and most 
accurate reasoning, from the premises which he has laid down. We are, 
therefore, left completely in the dark as to Mr. Southey's opinions about 
toleration. Immediately after censuring the government for not punishing 
infidels, he p^^ceeds to discuss the question of the Catholic disabilities — now, 
thank God, removed — and defends them on the ground that the Catholic 
doctrines twd to persecution, and that the Catholics peri^ecuted when they 
had power. ;fn«.v » ..* 


" They must persecute," says he, " if they believe their own creed, for consci- 
ence-sake ; and if they do not believe it, they must persecute for policy ; because 
it is only by intolerance that so corrupt and injurious a system can be upheld." 

That unbelievers should not be persecuted is an instance of national 
depravity at which the glorified spirits stand aghast. Yet a sect of Christians 
is to be excluded from power, because those who formerly held the same 
opinions were guilty of persecution. We have said that we do not very wei' 
know what Mr. Southey's opinion about toleration is. But, on the whole 
we take it to be this, that everybody is to tolerate him, and that he is t 
tolerate nobody. 

We will not be deterred by any fear of misrepresentation from expressing 
our hearty approbation of the mild, wise, and eminently Christian manner in 
which the Church and the Government have lately acted with respect to blas- 
phemous publications. We praise them for not having thought it necessary ta 
encircle a religion pure, merciful, and philosophical, — a religion to thei 
evidences of which the highest intellects have yielded, — with the defences of 
a false and bloody superstition. The ark of God was never taken till it was 
surrounded by the arms of earthly defenders. In captivity, its sanctity was 
sufficient to vindicate it from insult, and to lay the hostile fiend prostrate on the 
threshold of his own temple. The real security of Christianity is to be found in 
its benevolent morality, in its exquisite adaptation to the human heart, in the 
faciHjy with which its scheme accommodates itself to the capacity of eveiy 
humaii ''itellect, in the consolation which it bears to the house of mourning, 
in the light with which it brightens the great mystery of the grave. To such 
a system it can bring no addition of dignity or of strength that it is part and 
parcel of the common law. It is not now for the first time left to rely on the 
force of its own evidences, and the attractions of its own beauty. Its sublime 
theology confounded the Grecian schools in the fair conflict of reason with 
reason. The bravest and wisest of the Caesars found their arms and their 
policy unavailing when opposed to the weapons that were not carnal, and the 
kingdom that was not of this world. The victory which Porphyry and 
Diocletian failed to gain, is not, to all appearance, reserved for any of those 
who have in this age directed their attacks against the last restraint of the 
powerful, and the last hope of the wretched. The whole history of the 
Christian religion shows that she is in far greater danger of being corrupted 
by the alliance of power, than of being crushed by its opposition. Those who 
thrust temporal sovereignty upon her, treat her as their prototypes treated her 
author. They bow the knee, and spit upon her ; they cry Hail ! and smite 
her on the cheek j they put a sceptre into her hand, but it is a fragile reed ; 
they crown her, but it is with thorns ; they cover with purple the wounds 
tvhich their own hands have inflicted on her ; and inscribe magnificent titles 
over the cross on which they have fixed her to perish in ignominy and pain. 

The general view which Mr. Southey takes of the prospects of society is 
very gloomy ; but we comfort ourselves with the consideration that Mr. 
Southey is no prophet. He foretold, we remember, on the very eve of the 
abolition o/ the Test and Corporation Acts, that these hateful laws were im- 
mortal, and that pious minds would long be gratified by seeing the mo^t 
solemn religious rite of the Church profaned, for the purpose of upholding hei 
political supremacy. In the book before us, he says that Catholics cannot 
possibly be admitted into Parliament until those whom Johnson called ** the 
bottomless Whigs " come into power. While the book was in^he press, the 
prophecy was falsified, and a Tory of the Tories, Mr. Southey's own favourite 
hero, won and wore that noblest wreath, '* Ob cives servatos." 

The signs of the times, Mr, Southey tells us, are very threatening. Hit 


fears for the country would decidedly preponderate over his hopes, but for his 
firm reliance on the mercy of God. Now, as we know that God has once 
suffered this civilized world to be overrun by savages, and the Christian 
religion to be corrupted by doctrines which made it, for some ages, almost as 
bad as Paganism, we cannot think it inconsistent with his attributes thit 
jimilar calamities should again befall mankind. 

We look, however, on the state of the world, and of this kingdom in par- 
ticular, with much greater satisfaction and with better hopes. Mr. Southey 
speaks with contempt of those who think the savage state happier than the 
social. On this subject, he says, Rousseau never imposed on him even in his 
«outh. But he conceives that a community which has advanced a little way 
in civilization • is happier than one which has made greater progress. The 
Britons in the time of Caesar were happier, he suspects, than the English of 
the nineteenth century. On the whole, he selects the generation which pre- 
ceded the Reformation as that in which the people of this country were better 
off than at any time before or since. 

This opinion rests on nothing, as far as we can see, except his own in- 
dividual associations. He is a man of letters ; and a life destitute of literary 
pleasures seems insipid to him. He abhors the spirit of the present generation, 
the severity of its studies, the boldness of its inquiries, and the disdain with 
which it regards soiae old prejudices by which his own mind is held in 
bondage. He dislikes an utterly unenlightened age. He dislikes an in- 
vestigating and reforming age. The first twenty years of the sixteenth 
century would have exactly suited him. They furnished just the quantity of 
intellectual excitement which he requires. The learned few read and wrote 
largely. A scholar was held in high estimation; but the rabble did not 
presume to think ; and even the most inquiring and independent of the 
educated classes paiu more reverence to authority, and less to reason, than 
is usual in our time. This is a state of things in which Mr. Southey would 
have found himself quite comfortable j and, accordingly, he pronounces it 
the happiest state of things ever known in the world. 

The savages were wi etched, says Mr. Southey ; but the people in the time 
of Sir Thomas More were happier than either they or we. Now, we think it 
quite certain that we have the advantage over the contemporaries of Sir Thomas 
More in every point in which they had any advantage over savages. 

Mr. Southey does not even pretend to maintain that the people in the six- 
teenth century were better lodged or clothed than at present. He seems to 
admit that in these respects there has been some little improvement. It is 
indeed a matter about which scarcely any doubt can exist in the most perverse 
mind, that the improvements of machinery have lowered the price of manu- 
factured articles, and huve brought within the reach of the poorest some con- 
veniences which Sir Thomas More or his master could not have obtained at 
any price. 

The labouring classes, however, were, according to Mr. Southey, better fed 
three hundred years ago than at present. We believe that he is completely in 
error on this point. The condition of servants in noble and worthy families, 
and of scholars at the Universities, must surely have been better in those 
tim^s than that of common day-labourers ; and wf. are sure that it was not 
better than that of our workhouse paupers. Fro.Tri the household book of the 
Northumberland family, we find that in one of the greatest establishments of 
the kingdom the servants lived almost entirely on. salt meat, without any bread 
at all. A more unwholesome diet can scarcely be conceived. In the reign, 
of Edward VI. the state of the students at Cambridge is described to us, oa 
the very best authority, a$ most wretched. Many of them dined on poUajje 


made of a farthing's worth of beef with a little salt and oatmeal, and literally 
nothing else. This account we have from a contemporary master of St, John's. 
Our parish poor now eat wheaten bread. In the sixteenth century the labourer 
was glad to get barley, and was often forced to content himself with poorer 
fare. In Harrison's introduction to Plolinshed we have an account of the stale 
of our working population in the "golden days," as Mr. Southey calls them, 
of good Queen Bess. *' The gentilitie," says he, "commonly provide them- 
selves sufficiently of wheat for their own tables, whylest their household and 
poore neighbours in some shires are inforced to content themselves with rice 
or bavleie ; yea, and in time of dearth, many with bread made eyther of beanes, 
peason, or otes, or of altogether-, and some a comes among. I will not say 
that this extremity is oft so well to be seen in time of plentie as of dearth , 
but if I should I could easily bring my trial : for albeit there be much more 
grounde eared nowe almost in everye place then hath beene of late yeares, 
yet such a price of corne continueth in cache towne and markete, with- 
out any just cause, that the artificer and poore labouring man is not able to 
•reach unto it, but is driven to content himself with horse-corne ; I mean 
beanes, peason, otes, tares, and lintelles." We should like to see what the 
effect would be of putting any parish in England now on allowance of "horse- 
corne." The helotryof Mammon are not, in our day, so easily enforced to 
content themselves as the peasantry of that happy period, as Mr. Southey 
considers it, which elapsed between the fall of the feudal and the rise of the 
commercial tyranny. 

"The people," says Mr. Southey, "are worse fed than whqn they were 
fishers." And yet in another place he complains that they will not eat fish. 
"They have contracted," says he, "I know not how, some obstinate preju- 
dice against a kind of food at once wholesome and delicate, and everywhere 
to be obtained cheaply and in abundance, were the demand for it as general 
as it ought to be." It is true that the lower orders have an obstinate preju- 
dice against fish. But hunger has no such obstinate prejudices. If what was 
formerly a common diet is now eaten only in times of severe pressure, the 
inference is plain. The people must be fed with what ihty at least think 
better food than that of their ancestors. 

The advice and medicine which the poorest labourer can now obtain, in 
disease or after an accident, is far superior to what Henry VIII. could have 
commanded. Scarcely any part of the country is out of the reach of practi- 
tioners, who are probably not so far inferior to Sir Henry Halford as they are 
superior to Sir Anthony Denny. That there has been a great improvement 
in this respect Mr. Southey allows. Indeed, he could not well have denied it. 
"But," says he, " the evils for which these sciences are the palliative have 
increased since the time of the Druids in a proportion that heavily overweighs 
the benefit of improved therapeutics." We know nothing either of the dis- 
eases or the remedies of the Druids. But we are quite sure that the improve- 
ment of medicine has far mo'^e than kept pace with the increase of disease 
during the last three centuries. This is proved by the best possible evidence. 
The term of human life is decidedly longer in England than in any former 
age respecting which we possess any information on which we can rely. All 
the rants in the world about picturesque cottages and temples of Mammon will 
not shake this argument. , No test of the state of society can be named so 
decisive as that which is furnished by bills of mortality. That the lives of 
the people of this country have been gradually lengthening during the course 
of several generations, is as certain as any fact in statistics ; and^ that the lives 
of men should [become longer and longer while their physical condition 
during life is becoming worse and worse is utterly incredible. 


Let our readers think over these circumstances. Let them take into account 
the sweating sickness and the plague. Let them take into account that fearful 
disease which first made its appearance in the generation to which Mr. Southey 
assigns the palm of felicity, and raged through Europe with a fury at which 
the physician stood aghast, and before which the people were swept away by 
thousands. Let them coiftider the state of the northern counties, constantly 
the scene of robberies, rapes, massacres, and conflagrations. Let them add 
to all this the fact that seventy-two thousand persons suffered death by the 
hands of the executioner during the reign of Henry VlIL, and judge between 
the nineteenth and the sixteenth century. 

We do not say that the lower orders in England do not suffer severe hard- 
ships. But, in spite of Mr. Southey's assertions, and in spite of the assertions 
of a class of politicians who, differing from Mr. Southey in every point, agree 
with him in this, we are inclined to doubt whether they really suffer greater 
physical distress than the labouring classes of the most flourishing countries 
of the Continent. 

It will scarcely be maintained that the lazzaroni who sleep under the por- 
ticos of Naples, or the beggars who besiege the convents of Spain, are in a 
happier situation than the English commonalty. The distress which has 
lately been experienced in the northern part of Germany, one of the best 
governed and most prosperous districts of Europe, surpasses, if we have been 
correctly informed, anything which has of late years been known among us. In 
Norway and Sweden the peasantry are compelled to constantly mix bark with 
their bread, and even this expedient has not always preserved whole famihes and 
neighbourhoods from perishing together of famine. An experiment has lately 
been tried in the kingdom of the Netherlands, which has been cited to prove 
the possibility of establishing agricultural colonies on the waste lands of 
England ; but which proves to our minds nothing so clearly as this, that the 
rate of subsistence to which the labouring classes are reduced in the Nether- 
lands is miserably low, and very far inferior to that of the English paupei's. 
No distress which the people here have endured for centuries approaches to 
that which has been felt by the French in our own time. The beginning of 
the year 18 17 was a time of great distress in this island. But the state of the 
lowest classes here was luxury compared with that of the people of France. 
We find in Magendie's Journal de Physiologie Experimentale^ a paper on a 
point of physiology connected with the distress of that season. It appears 
that the inhabitants of six departments — Aix, Jura, Doubs, Haute Saones, 
Vosges, and Saone et Loire — were reduced first to oatmeal and potatoes, and 
at last to nettles, bean stalks, and other kinds of herbage fit only^for cattle ; 
that when the next harvest enabled them to eat barley bread, many of them 
died from intemperate indulgence in what they thought an exquisite repast; 
and that a dropsy of a peculiar character was produced by the hard fare of 
the year. Dead bodies were found on the roads and in the fields. A single 
surgeon dissected six of these, and found the stomach shrunk, and filled with 
the unwholesome aliments which hunger had driven men to share with beasts. 
Such extremity of distress as this is never heard of in England, or even in 
Ireland. We are, on the whole, inclined to think, though we would speak 
with diffidence on a point on which it would be rash to pronounce a positive 
judgment without a much longer and closer investigation than we have be- 
stowed upon it, that the labouring classes of this island, though they have 
their grievances and distresses, some produced by their own improvidence, 
some by the errors of their rulers, are, on the whole, better off as to physical 
tomfoits than the inliabitants of any equally extensive district of the old 
w<>rld. Ou this very account sufftring is more acutely felt and more loudly 


bewailed here than elsewhere. We must take into the account the liberty of 
discussion, and the stiong interest which the opponents of a ministry always 
have to exaggerate the extent of the public disasters. There are many parts 
of Europe in which the people quietly endure distress that here would shake 
the foundations of the state, in which the inhabitants of a whole province 
turn out to eat grass with less clamour than one Spitalfields weaver would 
make here, if the overseers were to put him on barley bread. In those new 
countries in which a civilized population has at its command a boundless 
extent of the richest soil the condition of the labourer is probably happier 
than in any society which has lasted for many centuries. But in the old world 
we must confess ourselves unable to find any satisfactory record of any great 
nation, past or present, in which the working classes have been in a mere 
comfortable situation than in England during the last thirty years. When this 
island was thinly peopled, it was barbarous. There was Httle capital ; and 
that little was insecure. It is now the richest and the most highly civilized 
spot in the world ; but the population is dense. Thus we have never 
known that golden age which the lower orders in the United States are 
now enjoying. We have never known an age of liberty, of order, and of 
education, an age in which the mechanical sciences were carried to a great 
height, yet in which the people were not sufficiently numerous to cultivate 
even the most fertile valleys. But when we compare our own condition 
with that of our ancestors, we think it clear that the advantages arising from 
the progress of civilization have far more than counterbalanced the disadvan- 
tages arising from the progress of population. While our numbers have 
increased tenfold, our wealth has increased a hundredfold. Though there are 
so many more people to share the wealth* now existing in the country than 
there were in the sixteenth century, it seems certain that a greater share falls 
to almost every individual than fell to the share of any of the corresponding 
class in the sixteenth century. The king keeps a more splendid court. The 
establishments of the nobles are more magnificent. The esquires are richer, 
the merchants are richer, the shopkeepers are richer. Tlie serving-man, the 
pTtisan, and the husbandman, have a more copious and palatable supply of 
food, better clothing, and better furnitnre. This is no reason for tolerating 
abuses, or for neglecting any means of ameliorating the condition of our 
poorer countrymen. But it is a reason against telling them, as some of our 
])hilosophers are constantly telling them, that they are the most wretched 
people who ever existed on the face of the earth. 

We have already adverted to Mr. Southey's amusing doctrine about nationrj 
wealth. A state, says he, cannot be too rich ; but a people may be too rich, 
His reason for thinking this is extremeljr curious. 

" A people may be too rich, because it is the tendency of the commercial, and mora 
especially of the manufacturing system, to collect wealth rather than to diffuse it. Whe/e ; 
wealth is necessarily employed in any of the speculations of trade, its increase is in proportion 
to its amount. Great capitalists become like pikes in a fish-pond, who devour the weaker 
fish ; and it is but too certain, that the poverty of one part of the people seems to increase 
in the same ratio as the riches of another. There are example? of this in history, la 
Portugal, when the high tide of wealth flowed in from the conquests 'ix Africa and the East, 
the effect of that great influx was not more visible in the augmented splendour of the court, 
and the luxury of the higher ranks, than in the distress of the people." 

Mr. Southey's instance is not a very fortunate one. The wealth which di^ 
so little for the Portuguese was not the fruit, either of manufactures or <.i 
coiimerce carried on by private individuals. It was the wealth, not of the 
people, but of the government and its creatures, of those who, as Mr, 
Southey thinks, can never be too rich. The fact is, th^rt Mr. Southey's pro. 
position is opposed to all history, and to the phenomena which surround ua 


on every side. England is the richest country in Europe, the most com- 
mercial and the most manufacturing. Russia and Poland are the poorest 
tountries in Europe. They have scarcely any trade, and none but the rudeK 
manufactures. Is wealth more diffused m Russia and Poland than in 
England? There are individuals in Russia and Poland, whose incomes 
are probably equal to those of our richest countrymen. It may be doubted, 
whether there are not, in those countries, as many fortunes of eighty thousand 
a-year as here. But are there as many fortunes of five thousand a-year, or of 
one thousand a-year ? There are parishes in England which contain more 
people of between five hundred and three thousand pounds a-year than could 
be found in all. the dominions of the Emperor Nicholas. The neat and com- 
modious houses which have been built in London and its vicinity, for people 
of this class, within the last thirty years, would of themselves form a city 
larger than the capitals oi some European kingdoms. And this is the state c , 
society in which the great proprietors have devoured the smaller ! 

The cure which Mr. Southey thinks that he has discovered is worthy of thw 
sagacity which he has shown in detecting the evil. The calamities arising; 
from the collection of wealth in the hands of a few capitalists are to be 
remedied by collecting it in the hands of one great capitalist, who has no 
conceivable motive to use it better than other capitalists — the all-devouring 

It is not strange that, differing so widely from Mr. Southey as to the pasr* 
progress of society, we should differ from him also as to its probable destiny 
He thinks, that to all outward appearance, the country is hastening to de» 
otruction ; but he relies firmly on the goodness of God. We do not see 
either the piety or the rationality of thus confidently expecting that the 
Supreme Being will interfere to disturb the common succession of causes and 
effects. We, too, rely on his goodness — on his goodness as manifested, not 
in extraordinary interpositions, but in those general laws which it has pleased 
him to establish in the Physical and in the moral world. We rely on the 
natural tendency of the human intellect to truth, and on the natural tendency 
of society to improvement. We know no well-authenticated instance of a 
people which has decidedly retrograded in civilisation and prosperity, except 
from the influence of violent and terrible calamities — such as those which laid 
the Roman Empire in ruins, or those which, about the beginning of the six- 
teenth century, desolated Italy. We know of nc country which, at the end 
of fifty years of peace and tolerably good government, has been less prosperous 
than at the beginning of that period. The political importance of a state may 
decline, as the balance of power is disturbed by the introduction of new 
forces. Thus the influence of Holland and of Spain is much dimmished. But 
are Holland and Spain poorer than formerly? We doubt it. Other countries 
have outrun them. But we suspect that they have been positively, though not 
relatively, advancing. We suspect that Holland is richer than when she sent 
lier navies up the Thames, — that Spain is richer than when a French king was 
brought captive to the footstool of Charles V. 

History is full of the signs of this natural progress of society. We see in 
almost every part of the annals of mankind how the industry of individuals, 
struggling up against wars, taxes, famines, conflagrations, mischievous prohibi- 
tions, and more mischievous protections, creates faster than governments can 
squander, and repairs whatever invaders can destroy. We see the capital of 
nations increasing, and all the arts of life approaching nearer and nearer to per- 
fection, in spite of the grossest corruption and the wildest profusion on the part 
of rulers. 

The present moment is one of great distress. But how small will thai 



distress appear when we think over the history of the last forty years ; — a war, 
compared with which all other wars now sink into insignificance ; — taxation, 
such as the most heavily taxed people of former times couldnot have concei red ; 
— a debt larger than all the public debts that ever existed in the world added 
together ;— the food of the people studiously rendered dear ; — the currency im- 
prudently debased, and imprudently restored. Yet is the country poorer than 
in 1 790 ? We fully believe that, in spite of all the misgovemment of her rulers, 
she has been almost constantly becoming richer and richer. Now and then 
there has been a stoppage, now and then a short retrogression ; but as to the 
general tendency there can be no doubt. A single breaker may recede, but the 
tide is evidently coming in. 

If we were to prophesy that in the year 1930 a population of fifty millions, 
better fed, clad, and lodged than the English of our time, will cover these 
islands, — that Sussex and Huntingdonshire will be wealthier than the wealthiest 
parts of the West-Riding of Yorkshire now are, — that cultivation, rich as that 
of a flower-garden, will be carried to the very tops of Ben Nevis and Helvellyn, 
— that machines, constructed on principles yet undiscovered, will be in every 
house, — that there will be no highways but railroads, no travelling but by 
steam, — that our debt, vast as it seems to us, will appear to our great g?and- 
children a trifling encumbrance, which might easily be paid off" in a year or 
two, — many people would think us insane. We prophesy nothing ; but this 
we say — If any person had told the Parliament which met in perplexity and 
terror after the crash in 1720, that in 1830 the wealth of England would 
surpass all their wildest dreams — that the annual revenue would equal the 
principal of that debt which they considered as an intolerable burden— that 
for one man of;^io,ooo then living, there v/ould be five men of;^5o,coo ; that 
Londgn would be twice as large and twice as populous, and that nevertheless 
the mortality w^Ciuld have'diminlshed to one-half what it then was,— that the 
post-office would bring more into the exchequer than the excise and customs 
had brought in together under Charles II., — that stage-coaches would run 
froni London to York in twenty-four hours — that men would sail without wind, 
and would be beginning to ride without horses — ourjancestors would have given 
as much credit to the prediction as they gave to Gialliver's Travels. Yet the 
prediction would have been true ; and they would have perceived that it was 
not altogether absurd, if they had considered that the country was then raising 
every year a sum which would have purchased the fee-simple of the revenue of 
the Plantagenets — ten times what supported the government of Elizabeth- 
three times what, in the time of Oliver Cromwell, had been thought'intolerably 
oppressive. To almost all men the state of things under which they have been 
used to live seems to be the necessary state of things. We have heard it said 
that five per cent, is the natural interest of money, that twelve is the natural 
number of a jury, that forty shillings is the natural qualification of a county i 
voter. Hence it is, that though, in every age, everybody knows that up to his 
own time progressive improvement has been taking place, nobody seems to 
reckon on any improvement during the next generation. We cannot absolutely 
prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning 
point, — that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us, 
and with just as much apparent reason. "A million a-year will beggar us," 
said the patriots of 1640. ** Two millions a-year will grind the country to 
powder," was the cry in 1660. **Six millions a-year, and a debt of fifty 
millions ! " exclaimed Swift — " the high allies have been the ruin of us." "A 
hunJred and forty millions of debt !" said Junius — "well may we say that we 
owe Lord Chatham more than we shall ever pay, if we owe him such a load as 
this." "Two hundred and forty millions of debt ! " cried all the statesmen of 


1783 in chorus — *' what abilities, or what economy on the part of a minister 
can save a country so burdened ? " We know that if, since 1783, no fresh debt 
had been incurred, the increased resources of the country would have enabled 
us to defray that burden at which Pitt, Fox, and Burke stood aghast — to defray 
it over and over again, and that with much lighter taxation than what we have 
actually borne. On what p-rinciple is it, that when we see nothing but im- 
provement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us ? 

It is not by the intermeddling of Mr. Southey's idol — the omniscient and 
omnipotent State — but by the prudence and energy of the people that England 
has hitherto been carried forward in civilisation ; and it is to the same prudence 
and the same energy that we now look with comfort and good hope. ■ Our 
rulers will best promote the improvement of the people by strictly confining 
themselves to their own legitimate duties — by leaving capital to find its most 
lucrative course, commodities their fair price, industry and intelligence their 
natural reward, idleness and folly their natural punishment — by maintaining 
peace, by defending property, by diminishing the price of law, and by 
observing strict economy in every department of the state. Let the govern- 
ment do this— the people will assuredly do the rest. 


I. The Omnipresence oi the Deity : A Poem. Ey Robert Montgomery. Eleventh 
Edition. London. 1830. 
2. Satan : A Poem. By Robert Montgo?/IERY. Second Edition. London, 1830. 

The wise men of antiquity loved to convey instruction under the covering of 
apologue ; and, though this practice of theirs is generally thought childish, we 
shall make no apology for adopting it on the present occasion. A generation 
which has bought eleven editions of a poem by Mr. Robert Montgomery may 
well condescend to listen to a fable of Pilpay. 

A pious Brahmin, it is written, made a vow that on a certain day he would 
socrifice a sheep, and on the appointed morning he went forth to buy one. 
There lived in his neighbourhood three rogues who knew of his vow, and laid 
a scheme for profiting by it. The first met him and said, " Oh, Brahmin, 
wilt thou buy a sheep ? I have one fit for sacrifice." '* It is for that very pur- 
pose," said the holy man, "that I came forth this day." Then the impostor 
opened a bag, and brought out of it an unclean beast, an ugly dog, lame and 
blind. Thereon the Brahmin cried out, " Wretch, who touchest things im- 
pure and utterest things untrue, callest thou that cur a sheep?" "Truly," 
answered the other, *'^t is a sheep of the finest fleece, and of the sweetest 
flesh. Oh, Brahmin, it will be an offering most acceptable to the gods." 
•* Friend," said the Brahmin, " either thou or I must be blind." 

Just then one of the accomplices came up. "Praised be the gods," said 
this second rogue, " that I have been saved the trouble of going to the market 
for a sheep ! This is such a sheep as I wanted. For how much wilt thou 
sell it?" When the Brahmin heard this, his mind waved to and fro, like one 
swinging in the air at a holy festival. " Sir," said he to the new comer, 
"take heed what thou dost ; this is no sheep, but an unclean cur." **0h, 
Brahmin," said the new comer, " thou art drunk or mad 1" 

At this time the third confederate drew near. " Let us ask this man," said 
the Brahmin, " what the creature is, and I will stand by what he shall say." 
To this the others agreed ; and the Brahmin called out, " Oh, stranger, what 
dost thou call this beast ?" " Surely, oh. Brahmin," said the knave; " it is a 
fine sheep." Then the Brahmin said, *' Surely the gods have taken away wm 


senses," — and he asked pardon of him who carried the dog, and boight it for 
a measure of rice and a pot of ghee, and offered it up to the gods, who, being 
wroth at this unclean sacrifice, smote him with a sore disease in all his 

Thus, or nearly thus, if we remember rightly, runs the story of the Sanscrit 
-(Esop. The moral, like the moral of every fable that is worth the telling, 
lies on the surface. The writer evidently means to caution us against the 
practice of puffers, — a class of people who have piore than once talked the 
public into most absurd errors, but who surely never played a more curious or 
a more difficult trick than when they passed Mr. Robert Montgomery off" upon 
the world as a great poet. 

In an age in which there are so few readers that a writer cannot subsist on 
the sum arising from the sale of his works, no man who has not an indepen- 
dent fortune can devote himself to literary pursuits, unless he is assisted by 
patronage. In such an age, accordingly, men of letters too often pass their 
lives in dangling at the heels of the wealthy and powerful ; and all the faults 
which dependence tends to produce pass into their character. They become 
the parasites and slaves of the great. It is melancholy to think how many oi 
the highest and most exquisitely formed of human intellects have been cor 
demned to the ignominious labour of disposing the commonplaces of adulation* 
in new forms, and brightening them into new splendour. Horace, invoking 
Augustus in the most enthusiastic language of religious veneration, — Statius 
flattering a tyrant, and the minion of a tyrant, for a morsel of bread, — Ariosto 
versifying the whole genealogy of a niggardly patron, — Tasso extolling the 
heroic virtues of the wretched creature who locked him up in a mad-house, — 
these are but a few of the instances which might easily be given of the degra- 
dation to which those must submit who, not possessing a competent fortune, 
are resolved to write when there are scarcely any who read. 

This evil the progress of the human mind tends to remove. As a taste for 
books becomes more and more common, the patronage of individuals becomes 
less and less necessary. In the earlier part of the last century a marked 
change took place. The tone of literary men, both in this country and in 
France, became higher and more independent. Pope blasted that he was the 
** one poet " who had ** pleased by manly ways ; ** he derided the soft dedica- 
tions with which Halifax had been fed, — asserted his own superiority over the 
pensioned Boileau, — and gloried in being not the follower but the friend of 
nobles and princes. The explanation of all this is very simple. Pope was the 
first Englishman who, by the mere sale of his writings, realized a sum which 
enabled him to live in comfort and in perfect independence. Johnson extols 
him for the magnanimity which he shoyved in inscribing his Iliad, not to a 
minister or a peer, but to Congreve. In our time, this would scarcely be a 
subject for praise. Nobody is astonished when Mr. Moore pays a compliment 
of this kind to Sir Walter Scott, or Sir Walter Scott to Mr. Moore. The idea 
of either of those gentlemen looking out for some lord who would be likely 
to give him a few guineas in return for a fulsome dedication, seems laughably 
incongruous. Yet this is exactly what Dryden or Otway would have done ; 
and it would be hard to blame them for it. Otway is said to have been 
choked with a piece of bread which he devoured in the rage of hunger ; and, 
whether this story be true or false, he was beyond all question miserably poor. 
Dryden, at near seventy, when at the head of the literary men of England, 
without equal or second, received three hundred pounds for his fables, — a 
collection of ten thousand verses, — and such verses as no man then living, 
except himself, could have produced. Pope, at thirty, had laid up between 
six and geven thousand pounds, —the fruits of his poetry. It was not, we 


suspect, because he had a higher spirit, or a more scrupulous conscience, than 
his predecessors, but because he had a larger income, that he kept up the 
dignity of the literary character so much better than they had done. 

From the time of Pop- to the present day, the readers have been constantly 
becoming more and more numerous ; and the writers, consequently, more and 
more independent. It is assuredly a great evil that men, fitted by their 
talents and acquirements to enlighten and charm the world, should be 1 educed 
to the necessity of flattering wicked and foolish patrons in return for the very 
sustenance of life. But though we heartily rejoice that this evil is removed, 
we cannot but see with concern that another evil has succeeded to it. The 
public is now the patron, and a most liberal patron. All that the rich and 
powerful bestowed on authors from the time of Maecenas to that of Harley 
would not, we apprehend, make up a sum equal to that which has been paid 
by English booksellers to authors during the last thirty years. Men of letters 
have accordingly ceased to court individuals, and have begun to court the 
public. They formerly used flattery. They now use puffing. 

Whether the old or the new vice be the worse, — whether those who formerly 
lavished insincere praise on others, or those who now contrive, by every art 
of beggary and bribery, to stun the public with praises of themselves, disgrace 
their vocation the more deeply, — we shall not attempt to decide. But of this 
we are sure, — that it is high time to make a stand against the new trickery. The 
puffing of books is now so shamefully and so successfully practised that it is 
the duty of all who are anxious for the purity of the national taste, or for the 
honour of the literary character, to join in discountenancing it. All the pens 
that ever were employed in magnifying Bish's lucky office, Romanis's fleecy 
hosiery, Packwood's razor straps, and Rowland's Kalydor, — all the placard- 
bearers of Dr. Eady, — all the wall-chalkers of Day and Martin,— seem to have 
taken service with the poets and novelists of this generation. Devices which, 
in the lowest trades, are considered as disreputable are adopted without 
scruple, and improved upon with a despicable ingenuity by people engaged in 
a pursuit which never was, and never will be, considered as a mere trade by 
any man of honour and virtue. A butcher of the highest class disdains to 
ticket his meat. A mercer of the highest class would be ashamed to hang up 
papers in his window inviting the passers-by to look at the stock of a bank- 
rupt, all of the first quality, and going for half the value. We expect some 
reserve, fome decent pride, in our hatter and our bootmaker. But no 
artifice by which notoriety can be obtained is thought too abject for a man of 

It is amusing to think over the history of most of the publications which 
have had a run during the last few years. The publisher is often the publisher 
of some periodical work. In this periodical work the first flourish of trumpets 
is sounded. The peal is then echoed and re-echoed by all the other periodical 
works over which the publisher or the author, or the author's coterie, may have 
any influence. The newspapers are for a fortnight filled with puffs of all the 
various kinds which Sheridan recounted, — direct, oblique, and collusive. Some- 
times the praise is laid on thick for simple-minded people. '* Pathetic," 
"sublime," ** splendid," "graceful, brilliant wit," ** exquisite humour," and 
oihrtT phrases equally flattering, fall in a shower as thick and as sweet as 
th<3 sugar-plums at a Roman carnival. Sometimes greater art is used. A 
sinecure has been offered to the writer if he w.ould suppress his work, or if he 
would even soften down a few of his incomparable portraits. A distinguished 
military and political character has challenged the inimitable satirist of the 
vices of the great ; and the puffer is glad to learn that the parties have been 
bound over to keep the peace. Sometimes it is thought expedient that the 


puffer should put on a grave face, and utter his panegyric in the form of ad- 
monition ! " Such attacks on private character cannot be too much condemned. 
Even the exuberant wit of our author and the irresistible power of his wither- 
ing sarcasm, are no excuses for that utter disregard which he manifests for t\ e 
feelings of others. We cannot but wonder that a writer of such transcendent 
talents, — a writer who is evidently no stranger to the kindly charities and 
sensibilities of our nature, should show so little tenderness to the foibles of 
noble and distinguished individuals, with whom if is clear, from every page of 
his work, that he must have been constantly mingling in society." These are 
but tame and feeble imitations of the paragraphs with which the daily papers 
are filled whenever an attorney's clerk or an apothecary's assistant undertakes 
to tell the public, in bad English and in worse French, how people tie their 
neckcloths and eat their dinners in Grosvenor Square. The editors of the 
higher and more respectable newspapers usually prefix the words "Adver- 
tisement," or "From a Correspondent," to such paragraphs. But this makes 
little difference. The panegyric is extracted, and the significant heading 
omitted. The fulsome eulogy makes its appearance on the covers of all the 
Reviews and Magazines, with "Times" or "Globe" affixed, though the 
editors of the Times and the Globe have no more to do with it than with 
Goss's way of making old rakes young again. 

That people who live by personal slander should practise these arts is not 
surprising. Those who stoop to v/rite calumnious books may well stoop to 
puff them ; — and that the basest of all trades should be carried on in the 
basest of all manners is quite proper, and as it should be. But how any 
man who has the least self-respect, the least regard for his own personal dig- 
nity, can condescend to persecute the public with this Rag Fair importunity 
v/e do not understand. Extreme poverty may, indeed, in some degree, be an 
excuse for employing tliese shifts, as it may be an excuse for stealing a leg of 
mutton. ^ But we really think that a man of spirit and delicacy would quite as 
scon satisfy his v/ants in one way as in the other. 

It is no excuse for an author that the pi-aises of journalists ai'e procured by 
the money or influence of his publisher, and not by his own. It is his business 
to take such precautions as may prevent others from doing what must 
degrade him. It is for his honour as a gentleman, and if he is really a man 
of talents, it will eventually be for his honour and interest as a writer, that 
his works should come befoi-e the public, recommended by their own merits 
alone, and should be discussed with perfect freedom. If his objects be 
really such as he may own without shame, -he will find that they will, in 
the long run, be better attained by suffering the voice of criticism to be fairly 
heard. At present, we too often see a writer attempting to obtain literary 
fame as Shakespeare's usurper obtains sovereignty. The publisher plays Buck- 
ingham to the author's Richard. , Some few creatures of the conspiracy 
are dexterously disposed here and there in the crowd. It is the business of 
these hirelings to throw up their caps, and clap their hands, and utter their 
vivas.^ The rabble at first stare and wonder, and at last join in shouting for 
shouting's sake ; and thus a crown is placed on a head which has no right to- 
it, by the huzzas of a few servile dependents. 

The opinion of the great body of the reading public is very materially in- 
fluenced even by the unsupported assertions of those who assume a right to 
criticise. Nor is the public altogether to blame on this account. Most, even of 
those who have really a great enjoyment in reading, are in the same state, with 
respect to a book, in which a man, who has never given particular attention 
to the art of painting, is with respect to a picture. Every man who has the 
least sensibility or imagination, derives a certain pleasure from pictures. Yet 


a man of the highest and finest intellect might, unless he had formed his taste 
by contemplating the best pictures, be easily persuaded by a knot of con- 
noisseurs that the worst daub in Somerset House was a miracle of art If he 
deserves to be laughed at, it is not for his ignorance of pictures, but .or his 
ignorance of men. He knows that there is a delicacy of taste in painting 
\yhich he does not possess ; that he cannot discriminate hands, as practised 
judges can ; that he is not familiar with the finest models j that he has never 
looked at them with close attention ; and that, when the general effect of a 
piece has pleased him or displeased him, he has never ti-oubled himself to 
ascertain why. When, therefore, people whom he thinks more competent to 
judge than himself, and of whose sincerity he entertains no doubt, assure him 
that a particular work is exquisitely beautiful, he takes it for granted that they 
must be in the right. He returns to the examination, resolved to find or 
imagine beauties j and if he can work himself up into something like admira- 
tion, he exults in his own proficiency. 

Just such is the manner in which nine readers out of ten ludge of a book. 
They are ashamed to dislike what men, who speak as having authority, declare 
to be good. At present, however contemptible a poem or novel may be, there 
is not the least difficulty in procuring favourable notices of it from all sorts of 
publications, daily, weekly, and monthly. In the meantime, little or nothing 
is said on the other side. The author and the publisher are interested in crying 
up the book. Nobody has any very strong interest in crying it down. Those 
v,'ho are best fitted to guide the public opinion think it beneath them to 
expose mere nonsense, and comfort themselves by reflecting that such popu- 
larity cannot last. This contemptuous lenity has been carried too far. It is 
perfectly true that reputations which have been forced into an unnatural bloom 
lade almost as soon as they have expanded ; nor have we any apprehensions 
that puffing will ever raise any scribbler to the rank of a classic. It is, indeed, 
amusing to turn over some late volumes of periodical works, and to see how 
many immortal productions have, within a few months, been gathered to the 
poems of Blackmore and the novels of Mrs. Behn ; how many ** profound 
views of human nature," and "exquisite delineations of fashionable manners," 
and "vernal, and sunny, and refreshing thoughts," and "high imaginings,'* 
and " young breathings," and " embodyings,"and '* pinings,"and "minglings 
with the beauty of the universe," and " harmonies which dissolve the soul in 
a passionate sense of loveliness and divinity," the world has contrived to 
forget. The names of the books and the writers are buried in as deep an 
oblivion as the name of th« builder of Stonehenge. Some of the well-pufied 
"fashionable novels" of the last, hold the pastry of the present year; and 
others of the class, which are now extolled in language almost too high flown 
for the merits of Don Quixote, will, we have no doubt, line the trunks of 
eighteen hundred and thirty-one. But, though we have no apprehensions 
that puffing will ever confer permanent reputation on the undeserving, we still 
think its influence most pernicious. Men of real merit will, if they persevere, 
at last reach the station to which they are entitled, and intruders will be 
ejected with contempt and derision. But it is no small evil that the avenues 
to- fame should be blocked up by a swarm of noisy, pushing, elbowing pre- 
tenders, who, though they will not ultimately be able to make good their own 
entrance, hinder, in the meantime, those who have a right to enter. AIJ who 
will not disgrace themselves by joining in the unseemly scufile must expect to 
be at first hustled and shouldered back. Some men of tnlcnts accordingly 
turn away in dejection from pursuits in which success appears to bear no pro- 
portion to desert. Others employ in self-defence the means by which com- 
petitors, far inferior to themselves, appear for a time to obtaiix a d€(ude<l 


advantage. There are few who have sufficient confidence in theii awn powers* 
and sufficient elevation of mind, to wait with secure and contemptuous 
patience while dunce after dunce presses before them. Those who will not 
stoop to the baseness of the modem fashion are too often discouraged. Those 
who stoop to it are always degraded. 

We have of lats observed with great pleasure some symptoms which le-^ii 
us to hope that respectable literary men of all parties are beginning to oe 
impatient of this insufferable nuisance. And we purpose to do what in us 
lies for the abating of it. We do not think that we can more usefully assist in 
this good work than by showing our honest countrymen what, that sort of 
poetry is which puffing can drive through eleven editions ; and how easily 
any bellman might, if a bellman would stoop to the necessary degree of mean- 
ness, become "a master-spirit of the age." We have no enmity to Mr. 
Robert Montgomery. We know nothing whatever about him, except what 
we have learned from his books, and from the portrait prefixed to one of them, 
in which he appears to be doing his very best to look like a man of genius and 
sensibility, though with less success than his strenuous exertions deserve. We 
select him because his works have received more enthusiastic praise and have 
deserved more unmixed contempt than any which, as far as our knowledge 
extends, have appeared within the last three or four years. His writing bears 
the same relation to poetry which a Turkey-carpet bears to a picture. There 
are colours in the Turkey-carpet out of which a picture might be made. There 
are words m Mr. Montgomery's verses which, when disposed in certain orders 
and combinations, have made, and will again make good poetry. But, as 
they now stand, they seem to be put together on principle, in such a manner 
as to give no image of anything in the '* heavens above, or in the earth 
beneath, or in the waters under the earth." 

Th« poem on the Omnipresence of the Deity commences with a description 
of the creation, in which we can find only one thought which has the least 
pretension to ingenuity, and that one thought is stolen from Dryden, and 
marred in the stealing — 

" Las'w, softly beautiful as music's closer 
Angelic woman into being rose." 

The all-pervading influence of the Supreme Being is then described in a few 
tolerable lines borrowed from Pope, and a great many intolerable lines of Mr, 
Robert Montgomery's own. The following may stand as a specimen : — 

" But who could trace Thine unrestricted course. 
Though Fancy follow'd with immortal force ? 
There's not a blossom fondled by the breeze. 
There's not a fruit that beautifies the trees. 
There's not a particle in sea or air. 
But nature owns thy plastic infkience there I 
With fearful gaze, still be it mme 10 see 
How all is filled and vivified by Thee ; 
Upon thy mirror, earth's majestic view. 
To paint Thy Presence, and to feel it too." 

The last two lines contain an excellent specimen of Mr. Robert Mont, 
gomery's Turkey-carpet style of writing. The majestic view of earth is the 
mirror of God's presence, and on this mirror Mr. Robert Montgomery paints 
God's presence. The use of a mirror, we submit, is not to be painted upon. 

A few more lines, as bad as those which we have quoted, bring us to one 
of the most amusing instances of literary pilfering which we remember. It 
might be of use to plagiarists to know, as a general rule, that what they steal 
is, to employ a phrase common in advertisements, of no use to any but the right 


owner. We never fell in, however, with any plunderer who so little under- 
stood how to turn his booty to good account as Mr. Montgomery. Lord Byron, 
in a passage which everybody knows by heart, has said, addressing the sea, 

' Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow." 

Mr. Robert Montgomery very coolly appropriates the image, and reproduces 
the stolen goods in the following form : 

" And Thou, vast Ocean, on whose awful face 
Time's iron feet can print no ruin-trace." 

So may such ill-got gains ever prosper ! 

The effect which the ocean produces on atheists is then described in the 
following lofty lines : 

"Oh ! never did the dark-soul'd Atheist stand. 
And watch the breakers boiling on the strand. 
And, while Creation stagger'd at his nod. 
Mock the dread presence of the mighty Godl 
We hear Him in the wind-heaved ocean's roar. 
Hurling her billowy crags upon the shore ; 
We hear Him in the riot of the blast. 
And shake, while rush the raving whirlwinds past ! " 

If Mr. Robert Montgomery's genius were not far too free and aspiring to be 
shackled by the rules of syntax, we should suppose that it is at the nod of the 
atheist that creation shudders, and that it is this same dark-souled atheist 
who hurls billowy crags upon the shore. 

A few more lines bring us to another instance of unprofitable theft. Sir 
Walter Scott has these lines in the Lord of the Isles : 

" The dew that on the violet lies, 
Mocks the dark lustre of thine eyes." 

This is pretty taken separately, and, as is almost always the case with good 
things of good writers, much prettier in its place than can even be conceived 
by those who use it only detached from the context. Now for Mr. Mont- 
gomery — 

"And the bright dew-bead on the bramble lies, 
Like liquid rapture upon beauty's eyes." 

The comparison of a violet, bright with the dew, to a woman's eyes, is as 
perfect as a comparison can be. Sir Walter's lines are part of a song ad- 
dressed to a woman, and the comparison is, therefore, peculiarly natural and 
graceful. Dew on the bramble is no more like a woman's eyes than dew any- 
where else. There is a very pretty Eastern tale of which the fate of plagiarists 
often reminds us. The slave of a magician saw his master wave his wand 
and lieard him give orders to the spirits who arose at the summons. He 
accordingly stole the wand, and waved it himself in the air, but he had not 
observed that his master used the left hand for that purpose. The spirits 
thus irregularly summoned, tore him to pieces, instead of obeying his 
orders. There are very few who can safely venture to conjure with the rod ol 
Sir Walter, and we are sure that Mr. Robert Montgomery is not one of thera, 

Mr. Campbell, in one of his most pleasant pieces, has this line — 

" The sentinel stars set their watch in the sky." 

The thought is good — and has a very striking propriety where Mr. Campbell 
has placed it — in the mouth of a soldier telling his dream. But, though 
Shakespeare assures us that "every true man's apparel fits your thief," it is 
by no means the case, as we have already seen, that every true poet's simili- 


tude fits your plagiarist. Let us see how Mr. Robert Montgomery uses the 
hnage — 

" Ye quenchless stars ! so eloquently bright, 
Untroubled sentries of the shadowy night, 
While half the world is lapp'd in downy dreams. 
And round the lattice creep your midnight beams, 
How sweet to gaze upon your placid eyes. 
In lambent beauty looking from the skies." 

Certainly the ideas of eloquence— of untroubled repose — of placid eyes, on 
the lambent beauty of which it is sweet to gaze, harmonize admirably vjith 
the idea of a sentry ! 

We would not be understood, however, to say, that Mr. Robert Montgomery 
cannot make similitudes for himself. A very few lines farther on, we find one 
which has every mark of originality, and on which, we will be botmd, none of 
the poets whom he has plundered will ever think of making reprisals : 

"The soul, aspiring, pants its source to mount. 
As streams meander level v/ith their fount." 

We take this to be, on the whole, the worst similitude in the world. In 
the first place, no stream meanders, or can possibly meander, level with its 
fount. In the next place, if streams did meander level with their founts, no 
two motions can be less like than that of meandering level and that of mount- 
ing upwards. 

We have then an apostrophe to the Deity, couched in terms which, in any 
writer who dealt in meanings, we should call profane, but to which, we 
suppose, Mr. Robert Montgomery attaches no idea whatever. 

"Yes ! pause and think, within one fleeting hour. 
How vast a universe obeys Thy power ; 
Unseen, but felt. Thine interfused control 
Works in each atom, and pervades the whole ; 
Expands the blossom, and erects the tree. 
Conducts each vapour, and commands each sea, 
Beams in each ray, bids whirlwinds be unfurl'd, 
Unrols the thunder, and upheaves a world ! " 

No field-preacher ever carried his irreverent familiarity so far as to bid the 
Supreme Being stop and meditate on the importance of the interests which 
are under his care. The grotesque indecency of such an address throws into 
shade the subordinate absurdities of the passage, the unfurling of whirlwinds, 
the unrolling of thunder, and the upheaving of worlds. 

Then comes a curious specimen of our poet's English — 

"Yet not alone created realms engage 
Thy faultless wisdom, grand, primeval sage I 
For all the thronging woes to life allied 
Thy mercy tempers, and Thy cares provide." 

We should be glad to know what the word * For * means here. If it is a 
preposition, it makes nonsense of the words, "Thy mercy tempers." If it 
is an adverb, it makes nonsense of the words, "Thy cares provide." 

These beauties we have taken, almost at random, from the first part of the 
poem. The second part is a series of descriptions of various events, — a battle 
— a murder — an execution — a marriage — a funeral — and so forth. Mr. Robert 
Montgomery terminates each of these descriptions by assuring us that the 
Deity was present at the battle, murder, execution, maxriage, or funeral, in 
question. And this proposition, which might be safely predicated of every 
event that ever happened, or ever vi'ill happen, fonns the only link which| 
connects these descriptions with the subject, or with each other. 

How the descriptions are executed, our readers are probably by this time! 


able to conjecture. The battle is made up of the battles of all ages and 
nations j "red-mouth'd cannons, uproaringto the clouds," and "hands grasp- 
ing firm the glittering sliield." The only military operations of which this 
part of the poem reminds us are those which reduced the Abbey of Quedtin- 
burgh to submission. The Templar with his cross — ^the Austrian and Prussian 
grenadiers in full uniform — and Curtius and Dentatus with their battering- 
ram. We ought not to pass by unnoticed the slain, who will no 

" Roll his red eye, and rally for the fight ; " 

or the slain warrior, who, while "lying on his bleeding breast," contrives 10 
" stare ghastly and grimly on the skies.." As to this last exploit, we can only 
say, as Dante did on a similar occasion,— 

" Forse per forza gia di parlasia 
Si stravolse cosi alcun del tutto : 
Ma io nol vidi, ne credo che sia.'* 

The tempest is thus described — 

*• But lo! around the marsh'llins; clouds unite, 
Like thick battalions halting for the fight ; 
The sun sinks back, the tempest-spirits sweep 
Fierce through the air, and flutter on the deep. 
Till from their caverns rush the maniac blasts. 
Tear the loose sails, and split the creaking masts, 
And the lash'd billows, rolling in a train, 
Rear their white heads, and race along the main ! " 

What, we should like to know, is the difference between the two operations 
which Mr. Robert Montgomery so accurately distinguishes from each other, — 
the fierce sweeping of the tempest-spirits through the air and the rushing of 
ihe maniac blasts from their caverns ? And why does the former operation 
«nd exactly when the latter commences ? 

We cannot stop over each of Mr. Robert Montgomery's descriptions. We 
have a shipwrecked sailor, who "visions a viewless temple in the air;" — a 
murderer, who stands on a heath, "with ashy lips, in cold convulsion spread ;" 
— a pious man, to whom, as he lies in bed at night, 

** The panorama of past life appears, 
Warms his pure mind, and melts it into tears ; " 

a traveller, who loses his way owing to the thickness of the " cloud-battalion," 
and the want of " heaven-lamps, to beam their holy light." We have a de- 
scription of a convicted felon, stolen from that incomparable passage in Crabbe's 
liorough, which has made many a rough and cynical reader cry like a child. 
We can, however, conscientiously declare that persons of the most excitable 
sensibility may safely venture upon it in Mr. Robert Montgomery's alteration. 
Then we have the "poor, mindless, pale-faced, maniac boy," who 

" Rolls his vacant eye. 
To greet the glowing fancies of the sky." 

What are the glowing fancies of the sky ? And what is the meaning of the 
two lines which almost immediately follow ? 

" A soulless thing, a spirit of the woods. 
He loves to commune with the fields and floods," 

How can a soulless thing be a spirit? Then comes a panegyric on the Sunday. 
A baptism follows; — after that a marriage; — and we then proceed, in due 
course, to the visitation of the sick and the burial of the dead. 


Often as Death has been personified, Mr. Montgomery has found something 
new to say about him. 

" O Death ! thou dreadless vanquisher of earth. 
The elements shrank blasted at thy birth ! 
Careering round the world like tempest wind. 
Martyrs before, and victims strew'd behind ; 
Ages on ages cannot grapple thee, 
Dragging the world into eternity 1 " 

If there be any one line in this passage about which we are more in the dark 
than about the rest, it is the fourth. What the difference may be between the 
victims and the martyrs, and why the martyrs are to lie before Death, and the 
victims behind him, are to us great mysteries. 

We now come to the third part, of which we may say with honest Cassio, 
"Why, this is a more excellent song than the other." Mr. Robert Mont- 
gomery is very severe on the infidels, and undertakes to prove that, as he ele- 
gantly expresses it, 

" One great Enchanter helm'd the harmonious whole." 

What an enchanter has to do with helming, or what a helm has to do with 
harmony, we do not quite understand. He proceeds with his argument thus : 

" And dare men dream that dismal Chance has framed 
All that the eye peiceives, or tongue has named ; 
The spacious world, and all its wonders, born 
Designless, self-created, and forlorn ; 
Like 1^ the flashing bubbles on a stream. 
Fire from the cloud, or phantom in a dream ? " 

We should be sorry to stake our faith in a higher Power on Mr. Robert 
Montgomery's logic. Does he believe that lightning, and bubbles, and the 
phenomena of dreams, are designless and self-created? If he does, we can. 
not conceive why he may not believe that the whole universe is designless 
and self-created. A few lines before he tells us that it is the Deity who bids 
" thunder rattle from the skiey deep." His theory is therefore this, that God 
made the thunder, but that the lightning made itself. 

But Mr. Robert Montgomery's metaphysics are not at present our game. 
He proceeds to set forth the fearful effects of atheism. 

'* Then, blood-stain'd Murder, bare thy hideous arm. 
And thou. Rebellion, welter in thy storm : 
Awake ye spirits of avenging crime ; 
Burst from your bonds, and battle with the time 1 " 

Mr. Robert Montgomery is fond of personification, and belongs, we need 
not say, to that school of poets who hold that nothing more is necessary to a 
personification in poetry than to begin a word with a capital letter. Murder 
may, without impropriety, bare her arm, — as she did long ago, in Mr. Camp- 
bell's Pleasures of Hope. But what possible motive Rebellion can have for 
weltering in her storm, — what avenging crime may be, — who its spirits may 
be, — why they should burst from their bonds,-— what their bonds may be, — 
why they should battle with the time, — what the time may be, — and what a 
battle between the time and the spirits of avenging crime would resemble, 
we must confess ourselves quite unable to understand. 

" And here let Memory turn her tearful glanca 
On the dark horrors of tumultuous France, 
When blood and blasphemy defiled her land, 
And fierce Rebellion shook her savage hand." 

Whether Rebellion shakes her own band, shakes the hand of Memory, or 


shakes the hand of France, or what any one of these metaphors would mean, 
we know no more than we know what is the sense of the following passage : 

" Let the foul or^es of infuriate crime 
Picture the raging havoc of that tlme,_ 
When leagued Rebellion march'd to kindle man, 
Fright in her rear, and Murder in her van. 
And thou, sweet flower of Austria, slaughter'd Queen, 
Who dropp'd no tear upon the dreadful scene, 
When gush'd the life-blood from thine angel form. 
And martyr'd beauty perish'd in the storm. 
Once worshipp'd paragon of all who saw. 
Thy look obedience, and thy smile a law," &c 

What is the distinction between the foul orgies and the raging havoc which 
the foul orgies are to picture ? Why does Fright go behind Rebellion, and 
Murder before? Why should not Murder fall behind Fright? Or why 
should not all the three walk abreast ? We have read of a hero who had 

" Amazement in his van, with Flight combined, 
And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind." 

Gray, we suspect, could have given a reason for disposing the allegorical 
attendants of Edward thus. But to proceed, — "Flower of Austria" is 
stolen from Byron. " Dropped " is false English. " Perish'd in the storm " 
means nothing at all ; and ** thy look obedience" means the very reverse of 
what Mr. Robert Montgomery intends to say. 

Our poet then proceeds to demonstrate the immortality of the soul ; — 

** And shall the soul, the fount of reason, die, 
When dust and darkness round its temple lie ? 
Did God breathe in it no ethereal fire, 
Dimless and quenchless, though the breath expire." 

The soul is a fountain ; and therefore it is not to die, though dust and dark- 
ness lie round its temple, because an ethereal fire has been breathed into it, 
which cannot be quenched though its breath expire. Is it the fountain or 
the temple that breathes, and has fire breathed into it? 
Mr. Montgomery apostrophizes the 

" Immortal beacons, — spirits of the just," 
and describes their employments in another world, which are to be, it seems, 
bathing in light, hearing fiery streams flow, and riding on living cars of 
lightning. The deathbed of the sceptic is described with what we suppose is 
meant for energy. 

" See how he shudders at the thought of death ! 

What doubt and horror hang upon his breath, 

The gibbering teeth, glazed eye, and marble limb. 

Shades from the tomb stalk out and stare at him." 

A man as stiff as marble shuddering and gibbering violently would 
certainly present so curious a spectacle that the shades, if they came in his 
way, might well stare. 

\Ve lixen have the deathbed ot a Christian made as ridiculous as false 
imagery and false English can make it. But this is not enough : — The Day 
nf Judgment is to be described, — and a roaring cataract of nonsense is poured 
forth upon this tremendous subject. Earth, we are told, is dashed into 
eternity. Furnace blazes wheel round the horizon, and burst into bright 
wizard phantoms. Racing hurricanes unroll and whirl quivering fire-clouds. 
The white waves gallop. Shadowy worlds career around. The red and 
raging eye of Imagination is then forbidden to pry further. But further 
Mr. Robert Montgomery persists in prying. The stars bound through th^ 
giry roar. The unl^psomed deep yawi^s on the ruio. The l^iUows g( eternitjf 


then begin to advance. The world glares in fiery slumber. A car comes 
forward driven by living thunder. * 

** Creation shudder^ with sublime dism;iy, 
And in a blazing tempest whirls away." 

And this is fine poetry ! This is what ranks its writer with the master- 
spirits of the age ! This is what has been described over and over again, in 
terms which would require some.qualification if used respecting Paradise Lost ! 
It is too much that this patchwork, made by stitching together old odds and 
ends of what, when new, was, for the most part, but tawdry frippery, is to l)c 
picked off the dunghill on which it ought to rot, and to be held up to admira- 
tion as an inestimable specimen of art. And what must we think of a system, 
by means of which verses like those which we have quoted — verses fit only 
for the poet's corner of the Merning Post — can produce emolument and fame ? 
The circulation of this writer's poetry has been greater than that of Southey's 
Roderic, and beyond all comparison greater than that of Gary's Dante, or of 
'the best works of Coleridge. Thus encouraged, Mr. Kobert Montgomery 
has favoured the public with volume after volume. We have given so much 
space to the examination, of his first and most popular performance that we 
have none to spare for Iiis Universal Prayer, and his smaller poems, which, 
as the puffing journals tell us,- would alone constitute a sufficient title to 
literary immortality. We shall pass at once to his last publication, entitled 

This poem was ushered into the world with the usual roar of acclamation. 
But the thing was now past a joke. Pretensions so unfounded, so impudent, 
and so successful, had aroused a spirit of resistance. In several magazines 
and reviews, accordingly, Satan has been handled somewhat roughly, and the 
arts of the puffers have been exposed with good sense and spiiit. We shall, 
therefore, be very concise. 

Of the two poems, we rather prefer that on the Omnipresence of the Deity, 
for the same reason which induced Sir Thomas More to rank one bad book 
above another. ** Marry, this is somewhat. This is rhyme. But the other 
is neither rhyme nor reason." Satan is a long soliloquy, which the Devil pro- 
nounces in five or six thousand lines of blank verse conccerning geography, 
politics, newspapers, fashionable society, theatrical amusements, Sir Walter 
Scott's novels, Lord Byron's poetry, and Mr. Martin's pictures. The new 
designs for Milton have, as was natural, particularly attracted the attention oi 
a personage who occupies so conspicuous a place in them. Mr. Martin must be 
pleased to learn that, whatever may be thought of those performances on 
earth, they give full satisfaction in Pandemonium, and that he is there thouii;ht 
to have hit off the likenesses of the various Thrones and Dominations very 

The motto to the poem of Satan is taken from the Book of Job :— ** Whence 
comest thou ? — From going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down 
^ in it." And certainly Mr. Robert Montgomery has not failed to make his hero 
go to and fro, and walk up and down. With the exception, however, of this 
propensity to locomotion, Satan has not one Satanic quality. Mad Tom had 
told us that " the prince of darkness is a gentleman ;" but we had yet to learn 
that he is a respectable and pious gentleman, whose principle fault is that he 
is something of a twaddle, and far too liberal of his good advice. That 
happy change in his character which Origen anticipated, and of which Tillot- 
son did not despair, seems to be rapidly taking place. Bad habits are not 
eradicated in a moment It is not strange, therefore, that so old an offender 
should now and then relapse for a short time into wrong dispositiansr But to 


give him his due, as the proverb recommends, we must say that he always 
returns, after two cr three hnes of impiety, to his preaching tone. We would 
seriously advise Mr. Montgomery to omit, or alter, about a hundred lines in 
different parts of this large volume, and to republish it under the name o£ 
Gabriel. The reflections of which it consists would come less absurdly, 
us far as there is a more and a less in extreme absurdity, from a good than 
from a bad angel. 

We can afford room only for a single quotation. We give one taken at 
random — neither worse nor better, as far as we can perceive, than any other 
equal number of lines in the book. The Devil goes to the play, and moralises 
thereon as follows : — 

•" Music and Pomp their mingling spirit shed 

Around me ; beauties in their cloud-like robes * 

Shine forth, — a scenic paradise, it glares 

Intoxication through the reeling sense 

Of flush'd enjoyment. In the motly host 

Three prime gardations may be ranked : the first 

To mount upon the wings of Shakspeare's mind. 

And win a flash of his Promethean thought,^— 

To smile and weep, to shudder, and achieve. 

A round of passionate omnipotence 

Attend : the second, are a sensual tribe 

Convened to hear romantic harlots sing. 

On forms to banquet a lascivious ga5?e, 

While the bright perfidy of wanton eyes : .' i; 

Through brain and spirit darts delicious fire X ' , 

The last, a throng most pitiful ! who seem. 

With their corroded figures, rayless glance 

And death-like struggle of decaying age, 

Like painted skeletons in charnel pomp - - . : i 

Set forth to satirize the human kind ! — ^-^ y;j^ ^^j : 

How fine a prospect for demoniac view J " '^' " 

• Creatures whose souls outbalance worlds awake ! * 

Methinks I hear a pitying angel cry." 

Here we conclude. If our remarks give pain to Mr. Robert Montgomery, 
we are sorry for it. But, at whatever cost of pain to individuals, literature 
must be purified from this taint! And, to show that we are not actuated by 
any feelings of personal enmity towards him, we hereby give notice that, as 
soon as any book shall, by means of puffing, reach a second edition, our 
intention is to do unto the writer of it as we have .done^ unto Mr. Robert 
Montgomery. '• ^ _ '";''. •'T-----^^ i^-'o^^ 


Statement of the Civil Disabilities and Privations affecting Jews in England. . '" " 
8vo. London. 1829. 

The distinguished member of the House of Commons who, towards the close 
of the late Parliament, brought forward a proposition for the relief of the 
Jews, has given notice of his intention to renew it. The force of rer.son, in 
the last session carried it through one stage, in spite of the opposition of 
power. Reason and power are now on the same side ; and we have little 
doubt that they will conjointly achieve a decisive victory. In order to con- 
tribute our share to the success of just principles, we propose to pass in 
review, as rapidly as possible, some of the arguments, or phrases claiming 
to be arguments, which have been employed to vindicate ^ system full of 
absui lity and injustice. 

The Constitution— it is said—is essentially Chi:istian ; and, therefore, to 
admit Jews to office is to destroy the Constitution. Nor is the Jew injured 
by being excluded from political power. For no man has any right to pow^ 


A man has a right to his property ; — a man has a right to be protected from 
personal injury. These fights the law allows to the Jew ; and with thes« 
rights it would be atrocious to interfere. But it is a mere matter of favour to 
admit any man to political power ; and no man can justly complain that he is 
shut out from it. 

We cannot but admire the ingenuity of this contrivance for shifting the 
burden of the proof from off those to whom it properly belongs, and who 
would, we suspect, find it rather cumbersome. Surely no Christian can deny 
that every human being has a right to be allowed every gratification which 
produces no harm to others, and to be spared every mortification which pro- 
duces no good to others. Is it not a source of mortification to any class of 
men that they are excluded from political power? If it be, they have, on 
Christian principles, a right to be freed from that mortification, unless it can 
be shown that their exclusion is necessary for the averting of some greater evil. 
The presumption is evidently in favour of toleration. It is for the prosecutor 
to make out his case. 

The strange argument which we are considering would prove too much 
even for those who advance it. If no man has a right to political power, 
then neither Jew nor Christian has such a right. The whole foundation of 
government is taken away. But if government be taken away, the property 
and the persons of men are insecure ; and it is acknowledged that men have 
a right to their property and to personal security. If it be right that the pro- 
perty of men should be protected, and if this can only be done by means of 
government, then it must be right that government should exist. Now, there 
cannot be government unless some person or persons possess political power. 
Therefore, it is right that some person or persons should possess political 
power. That is to say, some person or persons must have a right to political 

It will hardly be denied that government is a means for the attainment of 
an end. If men have a right to the end, they have a right to this — that the 
means shall be such as will accomplish the end. It is because men are not in 
the habit of considering what the end of government is that Catholic disabilities 
and Jewish disabiUties have been suffered to exist so long. We hear of essen- 
tially Protestant governments and essentially Christian governments— words 
which mean just as much as essentially Protestant cookery, or essentially 
Christian horsemanship. Government exists for the purpose of keeping the 
peace — for the purpose of compelling us to settle our disputes by arbitration, 
instead of settling them by blows — for the purpose of compelling us to supply 
our wants by industry, instead of supplying them by rapine. This is the only 
operation for which the machinery of government is fit, the only operation which 
wise governments ever attempt to perform. If there is any class of people who 
are not interested, or do not think themselves interested, in the security of 
propert vind the maintenance of order, that class ought to have no share of the 
powers which exist for the purpose of securing property and maintaining order. 
But why a man should be less fit to exercise those powers because he wears 
a beard, because he does not eat ham, because he goes to the synagogue on 
Saturdays instead of going to the church on Sundays, we cannot conceive. 

The points of difference between Christianity and Judaism have very much 
to do with a man's fitness to be a bishop or a rabbi. But they have no more 
to do with his fitness to be a magistrate, a legislator, or a minister of finance, 
than with his fitness to be a cobbler. Nobody has ever thought of compelling 
cobblers to make any declaration on the true faith of a Christian. Any man 
♦vould rather have his shoes mended by a heretical cobbler than by a person 
who had subscribed all the thirty-nine articles, but had never handled an awL 


Men act thus, not because they a/e indifferent to religion, but because they do 
not see what religion has to do with the mending of their shoes. Yet religion 
has as much to do with the mending of shoes as with the budget and the army 
estimates. We have surely had several signal proofs within the last twenty years 
that a very good Christian may be a very bad Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

But it would be monstrous, say the persecutors, that Jews should legislate 
for a Christian community. This is a palpable misrepresentation. What is 
proposed is, not that the Jews should legislate for a Christian community, but 
that a legislature composed of Christians and Jews should legislate for a com- 
munity composed of Christians and Jews. On nine hundred and ninety-nine 
questions out of a thousand, — on all questions of police, of finance, of civil 
and criminal law, of foreign policy, — the Jew, as a Jew, has no interest hostile 
to that of the Christian, or even to that of the Churchman. On questions 
relating to the ecclesiastical establishment, the Jew and the Churchman may 
differ. But they cannot differ more widely than the Catholic and the Church- 
man, or the Independent and the Churchman. The principle that Churchmen 
ought to monopolize the whole power of the state would at least have an 
intelligible meaning. The principle that Christians ought to monopolize it 
has no meaning at all. For no question connected with the ecclesiastical in- 
stitutions of the country can possibly come before Parliament, with respect to 
which there will not be as wide a difference between Christians as there can be 
between any Christian and any Jew. 

In fact, the Jews are not now excluded from political power. They possess 
it ; and as long as they are allowed to accumulate large fortmnes, they must 
possess it. The distinction which is sometimes made between civil privileges 
and political power is a distinction without a difference. Privileges are power, 
Civil and political are synonymous words — the one derived from the Latin, the 
other from the Greek. Nor is this mere verbal quibbling. If we look for a 
moment at the facts of the case, we shall see that the things are inseparable, 
or rather identical. 

That a Jew should be a judge in a Christian country would be most shock- 
ing. But he may be a juryman. He may try issues of fact ; and no harm is 
done. But if he should be suffered to try issues of law, there is an end of the 
Constitution. He may sit in a box plainly dressed, and return verdicts. But 
that he should sit on the bench in a black gown and white wig, and grant new 
trials, would be an abomination not to be thought of among baptized people. 
The distinction is certainly most philosophical. 

What power in civilized society is so great as that of the creditor over the 
debtor ? If we take this away from the Jew, we take away from him the 
f ecurity of his property. If we leave it to him, we leave to him a power more 
despotic by far than that of the king and all his cabinet. 

It would be impious to let a Jew sit in Parliament. But a Jew may make 
money ; and money may make members of Parliament. Gatton and Old 
Sarum may be the property of a Plebrew. An elector of Penryn will take ten 
pounds from Shylock rather than nine pounds nineteen shillings and eleven- 
pence three-farthings from Antonio. To this no objection is made. That a 
Jew should possess tlie substance of legislative power, that he should comnitind 
eight votes on every division, as if he were the great Duke of Newcastle himself, 
is exactly as it should be. But that he should pass the bar and sit down on 
those mysterious cushions of green leather, that he should cry "hear" and 
*' order, and talk about being on his legs, and being, for one, free to say this 
and to say that, would be a profanation sufficient to bring ruin on the country. 

That a Jew should be privy councillor to a Christian king would be an eter- 
iBol disgrace to the natic n. But the Jew may govern the mon^y-market, and 

m6 civil disabilities of the jews. 

the money-market may govern the world. The minister may be in doubt as 
to his scheme of finance till he has been closeted with the Jew. A congress 
of sovereigns may be forced to summon the Jew to their assistance. The 
scrawl of Qie Jew on the back of a piece of paper may be worth more than the 
royal word of three kings, or the national faith of three new American repub- 
lics. But that he should put Right Honourable before his name would be the 
most frightful of national calamities. 

It was in this way that some of our politicians reasoned about the Irish 
Catholics. The Catholics ought to have no political power. The sun of 
England is set for ever if the Catholics exercise political p inver. Give them 
everything else ; but keep political power from them. These wise men did 
not see that, when everything else had been given, political power had been 
given. They continued to repeat their cuckoo song, when it was no longer a 
question whether Catholics should have political power or not, when a Catho- 
lic association bearded the Parliament, when a Catholic agitator exercised 
.infinitely more authority than the Lord Lieutenant. 

If it is our duty as Christians to exclude the Jews from political power, it 
must be our duty to treat them as our ancestors treated them — to murder them, 
and banish them, and rob them. For in that way, and in that way alone, can 
we really deprive them of political power. If we do not adopt this course, we 
may take away the shadow, but we must leave them the substance. We may 
do enough to pain and irritate them ; but we shall not do enough to secure 
ourselves from danger, if danger really exists. Where wealth is there power 
must inevitably be. 

The English Jews, we are told, are not Englishmen, They are a separate 
people, living locally in this island, but living morally and politically in com- 
munion with their brethren who are scattered over all the world. • An English 
Jew looks on a Dutch or a Portuguese Jew as his countryman^ and on an 
English Christian as a stranger. This want of patriotic feeling, it is said, 
renders a Jew unfit to exercise political functions. 

The argument has in it something plausible ; but a close examination shows 
it to be quite unsound. Even if the alleged facts are admitted,' still the Jews 
are not the only people who have preferred their sect to their country. The 
feeling of patriotism, when society is in a healthful state, springs up by a 
natural and inevitable association, in the minds of citizens who know that they 
owe all their comforts and pleasures to the bond which unites them in one 
community. But, under partial and oppressive governments' these associa- 
tions cannot acquire that strength which they have in a better state of things. 
Men are compelled to seek from their party that protection which they ought 
to receive from their country, and they, by a natural consequence, transfer to 
their party that affection which they would otherwise have felt for their coun- 
try. The Huguenots of France called in the help of England against their 
Catholic kings. The Catholics of France called in the help of Spain again^ 
a Huguenot king. Would it be fair to infer, that at present the French Pro- 
testants would wish to see their religion made dominant by the help of a 
Prussian or English army? Surely not. And why is it that they are not 
willing, as they formerly were willing, to sacrifice the interests of their country 
to the interests of their religious persuasion ? The reason is obvious : — be- 
cause they were persecuted then, and are not persecuted now. The English 
Puritans, under Charles I., prevailed on the Scotch to invade England. Db 
the Protestant Dissenters of our time wish to see the Church put down by an 
invasion of foreign Calvinists ? If not, to what cause are we to attribute the 
change? Surely to this, that the Protestant Dissenters are far better treated 
"50W than in the seventeenth centuty. Some of the most illustrious publifc vaesa 


that England ever produced were inclined to take refuge from the tyranny of 
Laud in North America. Was this because Presbyterians are incapable of 
loving their country? — But it is idle to multiply instances. Nothing is so 
offensive to a man who knows anything of history or of human nature as to 
hear those who exercise the powers of government accuse any sect of foreign 
attachments. If there be any proposition universally true in politics, it is this, 
that foreign attachments are the fruit of domestic misrule. It has always been 
the trick of bigots to i^iake their subjects miserable at home, and then to com- 
plain that they look fo. ilief abroad ; — to divide society, and to wonder that 
it is not united ; — to f, jvern as if a sectioh of the state were the whole, and to 
censure the other se'jtions of the state for their want of patriotic spirit. If 
the Jews have "not felt towards England like children, it is because she^ has 
treated them like a stepmother. There is no feeling which more certainly 
develops itself in the minds of men living under tolerably good government 
than the feeling of patriotism. Since the beginning of the world there never 
was any nation, or any large portion of any nation, not cruelly oppressed, 
which was wholly destitute of that feeling. To make it, therefore, ground of 
accusation against a class of men that they are not patriotic is the most 
vulgar legerdemain of sophistry. It is the logic which the wolf employs 
against the lamb. It is to accuse the mouth of the stream of poisoning the 
source. It is to put the effect before the cause. It is to vindicate oppression 
by pointing at the depravation which oppression has produced. 

If the English Jews really felt a deadly hatred to England, — if the weekly 
prayer of their synagogues were that all the curses denounced by Ezekiel on 
Tyre and Egypt might fall on London, — if, in their solemn feasts, they called 
down blessings on those who should dash their children to pieces on the 
stones, still, we say, their hatred to their countrymen would not be more 
intense than that which sects of Christians have often borne to each other. 
But, in fact, the feeling of the Jews is not such. It is precisely what, in the 
situation in which they are placed, we should expect it to be. They are 
treated far better than the French Protestants were treated in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries, or than our Puritans were treated in the time of 
Laud. They, therefore, have no rancour against the government or against 
their countrymen. It will not be denied that they are far better affected to the 
state than the followers of Coligni or Vane. But they are not so well treated 
as the dissenting sects of Christians are now treated in England ; and on this 
account, and, we firmly believe, on this account alone, they have a more ex- 
clusive spirit. Till we have carried the experiment farther, we are not entitled 
to conclude that they cannot be made Englishmen altogether. The tyrant who 
punished their fathers for not inaking bricks without straw, was not more unrea- 
sonable than the statesman who treats them as aliens and abuses them for not 
entertaining all the feelings of natives. 

Rulc:rs must not be suffered thus to absolve themselves of their solemn re- 
sponsibility. It does not lie in their mouths to say that a sect is not patriotic 
— it is their business to make it patriotic. History and reason clearly indicate 
the means. The English Jews are, as far as we can see, precisely what our 
government has made them. They are precisely what any sect, — what any 
class of men, treated as they have been treated, — would have been. If all the 
red-haired people in Europe had, for centuries, been outraged and oppressed, 
banished from this place, imprisoned in that, deprived of their money, de- 
prived of their teeth, convicted of the most improbable crimes on the feeblest 
evidence, dragged at horses' tails, hanged, tortured, burned alive,— if, when 
manners became milder, they had still been subject to debasing restrictions 
and exposed to vulgar insults, locked up in particular streets in some coun-. 


tries, pelted and ducked by the rabble in others, excluded everywhere from 
ningistracies and honours, — what would be the patriotism of gentlemen with 
red hair? And if, under such circumstances, a proposition were made for 
admitting red-haired men to office, how striking a speech might an eloquent 
admirer of our old institutions deliver against so revolutionary a mea-^ure! 
" These men," he might say, " scarcely consider themselves as Englishjneru 
They think a red-haired Frenchman or a red-haired German more closely con- 
nected with them than a man with brown hair born in their own parish. If a 
foreign sovereign patronises red hair, they love him better than their own native 
king. They are not Englishmen : — they cannot be Englishmen : — nature has 
forbidden it : — experience proves it to be impossible. Right to political power 
they have none ; for no man has a right to political power. Let them enjoy per- 
sonal security; let their property be under the protection of the law. But if they 
ask for leave to exercise power over a community of which they are only half 
members — a community the constitution of which is essentially dark -haired — let 
us answer them in the words of our wise ancestors, Nolum^ts leges Anglice mutariy 

But, it is said, the Scriptures declare that the Jews are to be restored to 
their own country ; and the whole nation looks forward to that restoration. 
They are, therefore, not so deeply interested as others in the prosperity of 
England. It is not their home, but merely the place of their sojourn, — the 
house of their bondage. This argument first appeared in the Times news- 
paper, and has attracted a degree of attention proportioned rather to tlie 
general talent with which that journal is conducted than to its own intrinsic 
force. It belongs to a class of sophisms by which the most hateful persecu- 
tions may easily be justified. To charge men with practical consequences 
M hich they themselves deny is disengenuous in controversy ; — it is atrocious in 
;40vernment. The doctrine of predestination, in the opinion of many people, 
t ^nds to make those who hold it utterly immoral. And certainly it would seem 
that a man who beUeves his eternal destiny to be already irrevocably fixed is 
likely to indulge his passions without restraint, and to neglect his religious 
duties. If he is an heir of wrath, his exertions must be unavailing. If he is 
'^ueordained to life, they must be superfluous. But would it be wise to punish 
every man who holds the higher doctrines of Galvanism, as if he had actually 
committed all those crimes which we know some German Anabaptists to have 
committed? Assuredly not. The fact notoriously is that there are many 
Calvinists as moral in their conduct as any Arminian, and many Arminians as 
loose as any Calvinist. 

It is altogether impossible to reason from the opinions which a man pro- 
fesses to his feelings and his <\ctions; and, in fact, no person is ever such a fool 
as to reason thus, except when he wants a pretext for persecuting his neigh- 
bours. A Christian is commanded, under the strongest sancUons, to do as he 
would be done by. Yet to how many of the twenty-four millions of profess- 
ing Christians in these islands would any man in his senses lend a thousand 
pounds without security ? A man who should act, for one day, on the sup- 
position that all the people about him were influenced by the religion which 
they professed, would find himself mined before night; and no man ever does 
act on that supposition in any of the ordinary concerns of life, in borrowing, 
in lending, in buying, or in selling. But when any of our fellow-creatures are 
to be oppre-sscd, the case is different. Then we represent those motives which 
we know to be so feeble for good as omnipotent for evil. Then we lay to the 
charge of our victims all th j vices and follies to which their doctrines, how- 
ever remotely, seem to tend. We forget that the same weakness, the same 
laxity, the same disposition to prefer the present to the future, which make 
men worse than a good religion, n^ake them better than a bad one. 


It was in this way that our ancestors reasoned, and that some people in our 
time still reason, about the Catholics. A Papist believes himself bound to 
obey the pope. The pope has issued a bull deposing Queen Elizabeth. There- 
fore every Papist will treat her grace as an usurper. Therefore every Papist 
is a traitor. Therefore every Papist ought to be hanged, drawn, and quar- 
tered. To this logic we owe some of the most hateful laws that ever disgraced 
our history. Surely the answer lies on the surface. The Church of Rome 
may have commanded these men to treat the queen as an usurper. But she 
has commanded them to do many other things which they have never done. 
She enjoins her priests to observe strict purity. You are always taunting 
them with their licentiousness. She commands all her followers to fast often, 
to be charitable to the poor, to take no interest for money, to fight no duels, 
to see no plays. Do they obey these injunctions ? If it be the fact that very 
few of them strictly observe her precepts, when her precepts are opposed to 
their passions and interests, may not loyalty, may not humanity, may not the 
love of ease, may not the fear of death, be sufficient to prevent them from 
executing those wicked orders which she has issued against the sovereign of 
England ? When we know that many of these people do not care enough for 
their religion to go without beef on a Friday for it, why should we think that 
they will run the risk of being racked and hanged for it ? 

People are now reasoning about the Jews as our fathers reasoned about the 
Papists. The law which is inscribed on the waUs of the synagogues prohibits 
covetousness. But if we were to say that a Jew mortgagee would not foreclose 
because God had commanded him not to covet his neighbour's house, every- 
body would think us out of our wits. Yet it passes for an argument to say that 
a Jew will take no interest in the prosperity of the country in which he lives, 
that he will not care how bad its laws and police may be, — how heavily it may 
be taxed, — how often it may be conquered and given up to spoil, — because 
God has promised that, by some unknown means, and at some undetermined 
vimc, perhaps ten thousand years hence, the Jews shall migrate to Palestine. 
Is not this the most profound ignorance of human nature ? Do we not know 
that what is remote and indefinite affects men far less than what is near and 
certain ? Besides, the argument, too, applies to Christians as strongly as to 
Jews. The Christian believes, as well as the Jew, that at some future period 
the present order of things will come to an end. Nay, many Christians 
believe that the Messiah will shortly establish a kingdom on the earth, and 
reign visibly over all its inhabitants. Whether this doctrine be orthodox or 
not we shall not here inquire. The number of people who hold it is very 
much greater than the number of Jews residing in England. Many of those 
who hold it are distinguished J»y rank, wealth, and ability. It is preached 
from pulpits, both of the Scottish and of the English Church. Noblemen and 
members of Parliament have written in defence of it. Now wherein does this 
doctrine differ, as far as its political tendency is concerned, from the doctrine 
of the Jews ? If a Jew is unfit to legislate for us because he believes that he 
or his remote descendants will be removed to Palestine, can we safely open 
the House of Commons to a fifth-monarchy man, who expects that before this 
generation shall pass away, all the kingdoms of the earth will be swallowed 
up in one divine empire? 

Does a Jew engage less eagerly than a Christian in any competition which 
the law leaves open to him ? Is he less active and regular in his business thar 
his neighbours ? Does he furnish his house meanly because he is a pilgrim 
and sojourner in the land ? Does the expectation of being restored to the 
country of his fathers make him insensible to the fluctuations of the stock- 
exchange? Does he, in arranging his private affairs, ever take into th« 


account the chance of his migrating to Palestine ? If not, why are we to 
suppose that feelings which never influence his dealings as a merchant, or his 
dispositions as a testator, will acquire a boundless influence over him as sood 
as he becomes a magistrate or a legislator ? 

There is another argument which we would not willingly treat with levity, 
and yet which we scarcely know how to treat seriously. Scripture, it is said, 
is full of terrible denunciations against the Jews. It is foretold that they are 
to be wanderers. Is it then right to give them a home ? It is foretold that 
they are to be oppressed. Can we with propriety suffer them to be rul<"s ? To 
admit them to the rights of citizens is manifestly to insult the Divine oracles. 

We allow that to falsify a prophecy inspired by Divine wisdom would be a 
most atrocious crime. It is, therefore, a happy circumstance for our frail 
species that it is a crime which no man can possibly comm.t. If we admit the 
Jews to a seat in Parliament we shall, by so doing, prove that the prophecies 
in question, whatever they may mean, do not mean that the Jews shall be 
excluded from Parliament. 

In fact, it is already clear that the prophecies do not bear the meaning put 
upon them by the respectable persons whom we are now answering. In Fiance 
and in the United States the Jews are already admitted to all the rights of 
citizens. A prophecy, therefore, which should mean that the Jews would never, 
during the course of their wanderings, be admitted to all the rights of citizen^ 
in the places of their sojourn would be a false prophecy. This, therefore, is 
not the meaning of the prophecies of Scripture. 

But we protest altogether against the practice of confounding prophecy 
with precept — of setting up predictions which are often obscure against a 
morality which is always clear. If actions are to be considered as just and 
good merely because they have been predicted, what action was ever more 
laudable than that crime which our bigots are now, at the end of eighteen 
centuries, urging us to avenge on the Jews — that crime which made the earth 
shake and blotted out the sun from heaven ? The same reasoning which is 
now employed to vindicate the disabilities imposed on our Hebrew country- 
men will equally vindicate the kiss of Judas and the judgment of Pilate. ' ' The 
Son of man goeth, as it is written of him ; but woe to that man by whom the 
Son of man is betrayed." And woe to those who, in any age or in any 
country, disobey his benevolent commands under pretence of accomplishing 
his predictions. If this argument justifies the laws now existing against the 
Jews, it justifies equally all the cruelties which have ever been committed 
against them — the sweeping edicts of banishment and confiscation, the 
dungeon, the rack, and the slow fire. How can we excuse ourselves for leaving 
property to people who are to ** serve their enepies in hunger, and in thirst, and 
in nakedness, and in want of all things ;" — for giving protection to the persons 
of those who are to ** fear day and night, and to have none assurance of their 
life ;" — for not seizing on the children of a race whose ** sons and daughters 
are to be given unto another people ? " 

We have not so learned the doctrines of Him who commanded us tO' love 
our neighbour as ourselves, and who, when He was called upon to explain 
what He meant by a neighbour, selected as an example a heretic and an alien. 
Last year, we remember, it was represented by a pious writer in the John Bull 
newspaper, and by some other equally fervid Christians, as a monstrous in- 
decency, that the measure for the relief of the Jews should be brought forward 
in Passion week. One of these humorists ironically recommended that it 
should be read a second time on Good Friday. We should have had no objec- 
tion ; nor do we believe that the day could be commemorated in a more worthy 
manner. We know of no day fitter for terminating long hostilities and repairing 


cruel wrongs tha.n the day on which the religion of mercy was founded. We 
know of no day fitter for blotting out from the statute-book the last traces of 
intolerance than the day on which the spirit of intolerance produced the foulest 
of all judicial murders, the day on which the list of the victims of intolerance, 
that noble list wherein Socrates and More are enrolled, was glorified by a 
yet greater and holier name. 


Letters and Journals of Lord Byron ; with Notices of his Life. By Thomas Moore, Esq. 
2 vols. 4to. London. 1830. 

We have read this book with the greatest pleasure. Considered merely as a 
composition, it deserves to be classed among the best specimens of English 
prose which our age has produced. It contains, indeed, no single passage 
equal to two or three which we could select from the Life of Sheridan. But, 
as a whole, it is immeasurably superior to that work. The style is agreeable, 
clear, and manly, and when it rises into eloquence, rises without effort or 
ostentation. Nor is the matter inferior to the manner. 

It would be difficult to name a book which exhibits more kindness, fairness, 
and modesty. It has evidently been written, not for the purpose of showing, 
what, however, it often shows, how well its author can write, but for the pur- 
pose of vindicating, as far as truth will permit, the memory of a celebrated 
man who can no longer vindicate himself. Mr. Moore never thrusts himself 
between Lord Byron and the public. _ With the strongest temptations to 
egotism, he has said no more about himself than the subject absolutely re- 
quired. A great part — indeed, the greater part, of these volumes, consists of 
extracts from the letters and journals of Lord Byron ; and it is difficult to 
speak too highly of the skill which has been shown in the selection and 
arrangement. "We will not say that we have not occasionally remarked in 
^hese two large quartos an anecdote which should have been omitted, a letter 
which should have been suppressed, a name which should have been con- 
cealed by asterisks, or asterisks which do not answer the purpose of concealing 
the name. But it is impossible, on a general survey, to deny that the task 
nas been executed with great judgment and great humanity. When we con« 
sider the life which Lord Byron had led, his petulance, his irritability, and 
his communicativeness, we cannot but admire the dexterity with which Mr. 
Moore has contrived to exhibit so much of the character and opinions of his 
friend, with so little pain to the feelings of the living. 

The extracts from the journals and correspondence of Lord Byron are in th« 
highest degree valuable — not merely on account of the information which they 
contain respecting the distinguished man by whom they were written, but on 
account also of their rare merit as compositions. The letters, at least those 
which were sent from Italy, — are among the best in our language. They are 
less affected than those of Pope and Walpole ;— they have more matter in them 
than those of Cowper. Knowing that many of them were not written merely 
for the person to whom they were directed, but were general epistles, meant 
to be read by a large circle, we expected to find them cl'ever and spirited, but 
deficient in ease. We looked with vigilance for instances of stiffness in the 
language and awkwardness in the transitions. We have been agreeably dis- 
appointed ; and we must confess that, if the epistolary style of Lord Byron 
was artificial, it was a rare and admirable instance of that highest art which 
cannot be distinguished from nature. 

Of the deep and painful interest which this book excites no abstract can give 
a just notion. So sad and dark a story is scarcely to be found in any work of 


fiction ; and we are little disposed to envy the moralist who can read it with- 
out being softened. 

The pretty fable by which the Duchess of Orleans illustrates the character 
of her son the Regent might, with little change, be applied to B)n:on. All 
the fairies, save oi.e, had been bidden to his cradle. All the gossips had been 
profuse of their gifts. One had bestowed nobility, another genius, a third 
beauty. The mahgnant elf who had been uninvited came last, and, unable to 
reverse what her sisters had done for their favourite, had mixed up a curse 
with every blessing. In the rank of Lord Byron, in his understandipg, in his 
character, in his very person, there was a strange union of opposite extremes. 
He was born to all that men covet and admire. But in every one of those 
eminent advantages which he possessed over others was mingled something of 
misery and debasement. He was sprung from a house, ancient, indeed, and 
noble, but degraded and impoverished by a series of crimes and follies which 
had attained a scandalous publicity. The kinsman whom he succeeded had 
died poor, and, but for merciful judges, would have died upon the gallows. 
The young peer had great intellectual powers ; yet there was an unsound part 
in his mind. He had naturally a generous and feeling heart ; but his temper 
was wayward and irritable. He had a head which statuaries loved to copy, 
and a foot the deformity of which the beggars in the streets mimicked. Dis- 
tinguished at once by the strength and by the weakness of his intellect, 
affectionate yet perverse, a poor lord, and a handsome cripple, he required, if 
ever man required, the firmest and the most judicious training. But capri- 
ciously as nature had dealt with him, the parent to whom the office of forming 
his character was intrusted was more capricious still. She passed from 
paroxysms of rage to paroxysms of tenderness. At one time she stifled him 
^'ith her caresses ; — at another time she insulted his deformity. He came 
into the world ; and the world treated him as his mother had treated him, — 
sometimes with fondness, sometimes with cruelty, never with justice. It 
indulged him without discrimination, and punished him without discrimi- 
nation. He was traely a spoiled child, — not merely the spoiled child of his 
parent, but the spoiled child of nature, the spoiled child of fortune, the spoiled 
child of fame, the spoiled child of society. His first poems were received with 
a contempt which, feeble as they were, they did not absolutely deserve. The 
poem which he published on his return from his travels was, on the other 
hand, extolled far above its merit. At twenty-four he found himself on the 
highest pinnacle of literary fame, with Scott, Wordsworth, Southey, and a 
crowd of other distinguished writers beneath his feet. There is scarcely an 
instance in history of so sudden a rise to so dizzy an eminence. 

Everything that could stimulate, and everything that could gratify the 
strongest propensities of our nature — the gaze of a hundred drawing-rooms, 
the acclamations of the whole nation, the applause of applauded men, the 
love of the loveliest women, — all this world and all the glory of it were at once 
offered to a young man to whom nature had given violent passions, and whom 
education had never taught to control them. He lived as many men live who 
have no similar excuse to plead for their faults. But his countrymen and his 
countrywomen would love him and admire him. They were resolved to see 
in his excesses only the flash and outbreak of that same fiery mind which 
glowed in his poetry. He attacked religion ; yet in religious circles his name 
was mentioned with fondness ; and in many religious publications his works 
were censured with singular tenderness^ He lampooned the Prince Regent ; 
yet he could not alienate the Tories. Everything, it seemed, was to be for« 
given to youth, rank, and genius. 

Then came the reaction. Society, capricious in its indignation as it had 


been capricious in its fondness, flew into a rage with its froward and petted 
darling. He liad been worshipped with an irrational idolatry. He was per- 
secuted with an irrational fury. Much has been written about those ur happy 
domestic occurrences which decided the fate of his life. Yet nothing is, 
nothing ever was, positively known to the public but this, that he quarrelled 
with his lady, and that she refused to live with him. There have been hints 
in abundance, and shrugs and shakings of the head, and "Well, well, we 
know," and "We could an if we would," and "If we list to speak," and 
"There be that might an they list.'* But we are not aware that there is be- 
fore the world, substantiated by credible, or even by tangible evidence, a 
single fact indicating that Lord Byron was more to blame than any other 
man who is on bad terms with his wife. The professional men whom Lady 
Byron consulted were undoubtedly of opinion that she ought not to live with 
her husband. But it is to be remembered that they formed that opinion with- 
out hearing both sides. We do not say, we do not mean to insinuate, that 
Lady Byron was in any respect to blame. We think that those who condemn 
her on the evidence which is now before the public are as rash as those who 
condemn her husband. We will not pronounce any judgment, we cannot, 
even in our own minds, form any judgment on a transaction which is so 
imperfectly known to us. It would have been well if, at the time of the 
separation, all those who knew as little about the matter then as we know 
about it now had shown that forbearance which, under such circumstances, 
is but common justice. 

We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its 
periodical fits of morality. In general, elopements, divorces, and family 
quarrels, pass with little notice. We read the scandal, talk about ii for a 
day, and forget it. But once in six or seven years our virtue becomes out- 
rageous. We cannot suffer the laws of religion and decency to be \'iolated. 
We must make a stand against vice. We must teach libertines that the Eng- 
lish people appreciate the importance of domestic ties. Accordingly, some 
unfortunate man, in no respect more depraved than hundreds whose offences 
have been treated with lenity, is singled out as an expiatory sacrifice. If he 
has children, they are to be taken from him. If he has a profession, he has to 
be driven from it. He is cut by the higher orders, and hissed by the lower. 
He is, in truth, a sort of whipping-boy, by whose vicarious agonies all the 
other transgressors of the same class are, it is supposed, sufficiently chastised. 
We reflect very complacently on our own severity, and compare with great 
pride the high standard of morals established in England with the Parisian 
laxity. At length our anger is satiated. Our victim is ruined and heart- 
broken. And our virtue goes quietly to sleep for seven years more. 

It is clear that those vices which destroy domestic happiness ought to be 
as much as possible repressed. It is equally clear that they cannot be re- 
pressed by penal legislation. It is, therefore, right and desirable that public 
opinion should be directed against them. But it should be directed against 
them uniformly, steadily, and temperately, not by sudden fits and starts. 
There should be one weight and one measure. Decimation is always an ob- 
jectionable mode of punishment. It is the resource of judges too indolent 
and hasty to investigate facts and to discriminate nicely between shades of 
guilt. It is an irrational practice, even when adopted by military tribunals. 
When adopted by the tribunal of public opinion, it is infinitely more irra- 
tional. It is good that a certain portion of disgrace should constantly attend 
on certain bad actions. But it is not good that the offenders should merely 
have to stand the risks of a lottery of infamy, that ninety-nine out of every 
hundred should escape, and that the hundredth, perhaps the most innocent of 


the hundred, should pay for all. We remember to have seen a mob assembled 
in Lincoln's Inn to hoot a gentleman against whom the most oppressive 
proceeding known to the English law was then in progress. He was hoc/ted 
because he had been an indifferent and unfaithful husband, as if some of the 
most popular men of the age, — Lord Nelson for example, — ^liad not been un- 
faithful husbands. We remember a still stronger case. Will posterity believe 
that, in an age in which men whose gallantries were universally known, and 
had been legally proved, filled some of the highest offices in the state and in 
the army, presided at the meetings of religious and benevolent institutions, — 
were the delight of every society, and the favourites of the multitude, — a crowd 
of moralists went to the theatre, in order to pelt a poor actor for disturbing the 
conjugal felicity of an alderman? What there was in the circumstances either 
of the offender or of the sufferer to vindicate the zeal of the audience, we could 
never conceive. It has never been supposed that the situation of an actor \\ 
peculiarly favourable to the rigid virtues, or that an alderman enjoys any 
' special immunity from injuries such as that which on this occasion roused the 
anger of the public. But such is the justice of mankind. 

In these cases the punishment was excessive ; but the offence was known and 
proved. The case of Lord Byron was harder. True Jedwood justice was 
dealt out to him. First came the execution, then the investigation, and last 
of all, or rather not at all, the accusation. The public, without knowing any- 
thing whatever about the transactions in his family, flew into a violent passion 
with him, and proceeded to invent stories which might justify its anger. Ten. 
or twenty different accounts of the separation, inconsistent with each other, 
with themselves, and with common sense, circulated at the same time. What 
evidence there might be for anyone of these, the virtuous people who repeated 
them neither knew or cared. For, in fact, these stories were not the causes, 
but the effects of the public indignation. They resembled those loathsome 
slanders which Goldsmith and other abject libellers of the same class were in 
the habit of publishing about Bonaparte ; — how he poisoned a girl with arsenic 
when he was at the military school, — that he hired a grenadier to shoot 
Dessaix at Marengo, — that he filled St. Cloud with all the pollutions of 
Capreae. There was a time when anecdotes like these obtained some credence 
from persons who, hating the French emperor without knowing why, were 
eager to believe anything which might justify their hatred. Lord Byron fared 
in the same way. His countrymen were in a bad humour with hhn. His 
writings and his character had lost the charm of novelty. He had been guilty 
of the offence which, of all offences, is punished most severely ; he had been 
over-praised ; he had excited too warm an interest ; and the pubHc, with its 
usual justice, chastised him for its own folly. The attachments of the multi- 
tude bear no small resemblance to those of the wanton enchantress in the 
Arabian Tales, who, when the forty days of her fondness were over, was not 
content with dismissing her lovers, but condemned them to expiate, in loath- 
some shapes, and under severe punishments, the crime of having once pleased 
her too well. 

The obloquy which Byron had to endure was such as might well have 
shaken a more constant mind. The newspapers were filled with lampoons. 
The theatres Shook with execrations. He was excluded from circles where 
he had lately been the observed of all observers. All those creeping things 
that riot in the decay of nobler natures hastened to their recast ; and they 
were right ; — they did after their kind. It is not every day that the savage 
envy of aspiring dunces is gratified by the agonies of such a spirit, and the 
degradation of such a name. 

The unhappy man left his country for ever. The howl of contumely followed 


him across the sea, up the Rhine^ over the Alps ; it gradually waxed fainter ; it 
died away. Those who had raised it began to ask each other what, after all, 
was the matter about which they had been so clamorous, and wished to invite 
back the criminal whom they had just chased from them. His poetry became 
more popular than it had ever been j and his complaints were read with tears 
by thousands and tens of thousands who had never seen his face. 

He had fixed his home on the shores of the Adriatic, in the most picturesque 
and interesting of cities, beneath the brightest of skies, and by the brightest of 
seas. Censoriousness was not the vice of the neighbours whom he had chosen. 
They were a race corrupted by a bad government and a bad religion, long 
renowned for skill in the arts of voluptuousness, and tolerant of all the caprices 
of sensuality. From the pubHc opinion of the country of his adoption, he had 
nothing to dread. With the public opinion jf the country of his birth, he was 
at open war. He plunged into wild and desperate excesses, ennobled by no 
generous or tender sentiment. From his Venetian harem he sent forth volume 
after volume, full of eloquence, of wit, of pathos, of ribaldry, and of bitter 
disdain. His health sank under the effects of his intemperance. His hair 
turned grey. His food ceased to nourish him. A hectic fever withered him 
up. It seemed that his body and mind v/ere about to perish together. 

From this wretched degradation he was in some measure rescued by a con- 
nection, culpable indeed, yet such as, if it were judged by the standard of 
morality established in the country where he lived, might be called virtuous. 
But an imagination polluted by vice, a temper embittered by misfortune, and 
a frame habituated to the fatal excitement of intoxication, prevented him from 
fully enjoying the happiness which he might have derived from the purest and 
most tranquil of his many attachments. Midnight draughts of ardent spirits 
and Rhenish wines had begun to work the ruin of his fine intellect. His verse 
lost much of the energy and condensation which had distinguished it. But he 
would not resign, without a struggle, the empire which he had exercised over 
the men of his generation. A new dream of ambition rose before him j — to be 
the chief of a literary party ; to be the great mover of an intellectual revolu- 
tion ; — to guide the public mind of England from his Italian retreat, as 
Voltaire had guided the public mind of France from the villa of Femey. With 
this hope, as it should seem, he established The Liberal. But, powerfully as he 
had affected the imaginations of his contemporaries, he mistook his own powers 
if he hoped to direct their opinions ; and he still more grossly mistook his own 
disposition, if he thought that he could long act in concert with other men of 
letters. The plan failed, and failed ignominiously. Angry with himself, 
angry with his coadjutors, he relinquished it, and tunied to another project, the 
last and noblest of his life. 

A nation, once the first among the nations, pre-eminent in knowledge, pre- 
eminent in military glory, the cradle of philosophy, of eloquence, and of the 
fine arts, had been for ages bowed down under a cruel yoke. All the vices 
which tyranny generates, — the abject vices which it generates in those who 
submit to it,— the ferocious vices which it generates in those who stru<.',gle 
against it, — had deformed the character of that miserable race. The valour 
which had won the great battle of human civilisation, — which had saved 
Europe, which had subjugated Asia, lingered only among pirates and robbers. 
The ingenuity, once so conspicuously displayed in every department of physical 
and moral science, bad been depraved into a timid and servile cunning. On 
a sudden this degraded people had risen on their oppressors. Discountenanced 
or betrayed by the surrounding potentates, they had found in themselves some- 
thing of that which might well supply the place of all foreign assistances- 
something of the energy of their fathers. 


As a rtian of letters, Lord Byron could not but be interested in the event of 
this contest. His political opinions, though, like all his opinions, unsettled^ 
leaned strongly towards the side of liberty. He had assisted the Italian in- 
surgents with his purse, and, if their struggle against the Austrian government 
had been prolonged, would probably have assisted them with his sword. But 
to Greece he was attached by peculiar ties. He had when young resided ill 
that country. Much of his most splendid and popular poetry had been inspired 
by its scenery and by its history. Sick of inaction, — degraded in his own eyes 
by his private vices and by his literary failures, — pining for untried excitement 
and honourable distinction, — he carried his exhausted body and his wounded 
spirit to the Grecian camp. 

His conduct in his new situation showed so much vigour and good sense as 
to justify us in believing that, if his life had been prolonged, he might have 
distinguished himself as a soldier and a politician. But pleasure and sorrow 
had done the work of seventy years upon his delicate frame. The hand of 
death was upon him : he knew it ; and the only wish which he uttered was 
that he might die sword in hand. 

This was denied to him. Anxiety, exertion, exposure, and those fatal 
stimulants which had become indispensable lo him, soon stretched him on a 
sick bed, in a strange land, amidst strange faces, without one human being he 
loved near him. There, at thirty-six, the most celebrated Englishman of the 
nineteenth century closed his brilliant and miserable career. 

We cannot even now retrace those events without feeling something of what 
was felt by the nation when it was first known that the grave had closed over 
so much sorrow and so much glory ; — something of what was felt by those who 
saw the hearse, with its long train of coaches, turn slowly northward, leaving 
behind it that cemetery which had been consecrated by the dust of so many 
great poets, but of which the doors were closed against all that remained of 
Byron. We well remember that on that day rigid moralists could not refrain 
from weeping for one so young, so illustrious, so unhappy, gifted with fuch 
rare gifts, and tried by such strong temptations. It is unnecessary to make 
any reflections. The history carries its moral with it. Our age has indeed 
been fruitful of warnings to the eminent, and of consolations to the obscure. 
Two men have died within our recollection who, at the time of life at which 
many people have hardly completed their education, had raised themselves, 
each in his own department, to the height of glory. One of them died at 
Ivongwood ; the other at Missolonghi. 

It is always difficult to separate the literary character of a man who lives in 
our time from his personal character. It is peculiarly difficult to make this 
separation in the case of Lord Byron. For it is scarcely too much to say that 
Lord Byron never wrote without some reference, direct or indirect, to himself. 
The interest excited by the events of his life mingles itself in our minds, and 
probably in the minds of almost all our readers, with the interest which properly 
belongs to his works. A generation must pass away before it will be possible 
to form a fair judgment of his books, considered merely as books. At present 
they are not only books, but relics. We will, however, venture, though with 
unfeigned diftidence, to offer some desultory remarks on his poetry. 

His lot was cast in the time of a great literary revolution. That poetical 
dynasty which has dethroned the successors of Shakespeare and Spenser was, in 
its turn, dethroned by a race who represented themselves as heirs of the ancient 
line, so long dispossessed by usurpers. The real nature of this revolution has 
not, we think, been comprehended by the great majority of those who con- 
Cirred in it. 

If this question were proposed,— wherein especiaUy dcss the poetry of our 

MOOk^^ LIPE 6F LOkH) BYROJ^, t^l 


times differ fi-om that of the last century ? — ninety-nine persons out of a hun- 
dred would answer that the poetry of the last century was correct, but czld and 
mechanical, and that the poetry of our time, though wild and irre<jular, pre- 
sented far more vivid images, and excited the passions far more stiongly than 
that of Pamell, or Addison, or Pope. In the same manner we cons antly 
hear it said that the poets of the age of Elizabeth had far more genius, but 
far less correctness, than those of the age of Anne. It seems to be taken for 
granted that there is some necessary incompatibility, some antithesis between 
correctness and creative power. We rather suspect that this notion arises 
merely from an abuse of words, and that it has been the parent of many of 
the fallacies which perplex the science of criticism. 

What is meant by correctness in poetry ? If by correctness be meant the 
conforming to rules which have their foundation in truth and in the principles 
of human nature, then correctness is only another name for excellence. If by 
correctness be meant the conforming to rules purely arbitrary, correctness may 
be another name for dulness and absurdity. 

A writer who describes visible objects falsely and violates the propriety of 
character, — a writer who makes the mountains "nod their drowsy heads " at 
night, or a dying man take leave of the world with a rant like that of Maxi- 
min, may be said, in the high and just sense of the phrase, to write incorrectly. 
He violates the first great law of his art. His imitation is altogether unlike 
the thing imitated. The four poets who are most eminently free from incor- 
rectness of this description ai-e Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton. They 
are, therefore, in one sense, and that the best sense, the most correct of poets. 

When it is said that Virgil, though he had less genius than Homer, was a 
more correct writer, what sense Is attached to the word correctness ? Is it 
meant that the story of the ^neid is developed more skilfully than that of the 
Odyssey ? — that the Roman describes the face of the external world, or the 
emotions of the mind, more accurately than the Greek? — that the characters 
of Achates and Mnestheus are more nicely discriminated, and more consist- 
ently supported, than those of Achilles, of Nestor, and of Ulysses ? The fact 
incontestably is that, for every violation of the fundamental laws of poetry 
which can be found in Homer, it would be easy to find twenty in Virgil. 

Troilus and Cressida is perhaps of all the plays of Shakespeare that which 
is commonly considered as the most incorrect. Yet it seems to us infinitely 
more correct, in the sound sense of the term, than what are called the most 
correct plays of the most correct dramatists. Compare it, for example, with the 
Iphigenie of Racine. We are sure that the Greeks of Shakspeare bear a far 
greater resemblance than the Greeks of Racine to the real Greeks who besieged 
Troy ; and for this reason, that the Greeks of Shakespeare are human beings, 
and the Greeks of Racine mere names — mere words printed in capitals at the 
heads of paragraphs of declamation. Racine, it is true, would have shuddered 
at the thought of making Agamemnon quote Aristotle. But of what use is it 
to avoid a single anachronism, when the whole play is one anachronism, — tlie 
sentiments and phrases of Versailles in the camp of Aulis ? 

In the sense in which we are now using the word correctness, we think thrl 
Sir Walter Scott, Mr. Wordsworth, Mr. Coleridge, are far more correct 
writers than those who are commonly extolled as the models of correctness, — 
Pope, for example, and Addison. The single description cff a moonlight night 
in Pope's Iliad contains more inaccuracies than can be found in all the Excur- 
sion. There is not a single scene in Cato in which everything that conduces 
to poetical illusion, — all the propriety of character, of language, of situation, 
is not more grossly violated than in any part of the Lay of the Last Minstrel. 
No map can possibly think that the Romans of ASdison resemble the reo] 


Romans so closely as the moss-troopers of Scott resemble the real moss- 
troopers. Wat Tinlinn and William of Deloraine are not, it is true, persons 
of so much dignity as Cato. But the dignity of the persons represented has 
as little to do with the correctness of poetry as with the correctness of paint- 
ing. We prefer a gipsy by Reynolds to his Majesty's head on a sign-post, 
and a Borderer by Scott to a Senator by Addison. 

In what sense, then, is the word correctness used by those who say, with 
the author of the Pursuits of Literature, that Pope was^ the most correct of 
English Poets, and that next to Pope came the late Mr.' Giffcrd? What is 
the nature and value of that correctness the praise of which is denied to Mac- 
beth, to Lear, and to Othello, and given to Ploole's translations and to all 
the Seatonian prize-poems ? We can discover no eternal rule, — no rule 
founded in reason and in the nature of things, — which Shakspeare does not 
observe much more strictly than Pope. But if by correctness be meant the 
conforming to a narrow legislation which, while lenient to the mala in se, 
multiplies, without a shadow of reason, the mala pro hibita, if by correctness be 
meant a strict attention to certain ceremonious obsei-vances, which are no 
more essential to poetry than etiquette to good government, or than the wash- 
ings of a Pharisee to devotion, then, assuredly. Pope may be a more correct 
poet than Shakspeare : and, if the code were a little altered, Colley Gibber 
might be a more correct poet than Pope. But it may well be doubted whether 
this kind of correctness be a. merit, — nay, whether it be not an absolute fault. 

It would be amusing to make a digest of the irrational laws which bad 
critics have framed for the government of poets. First in celebrity and in 
absurdity stand the dramatic unities of place and time. No human being has 
ever been able to find any thing that could, even by courtesy, be called an 
argument for these unities, except that they have been deduced from the 
general practice of the Greeks. It requires no very profound examination to 
discover that the Greek dramas, often admirable as compositions, are, as 
exhibitions of human character and human life, far inferior to the English 
plays of the age of Elizabeth. Every scholar knows that the dramatic part 
of the Athenian tragedies was at first subordinate to the lyrical part. It would, 
therefore, have been little less than a miracle if the laws of the Athenian stage 
had been found to suit plays in which there was no chorus. All the greatest 
masterpieces of the dramatic art have been composed in direct violation of 
the unities, and could never have been composed if the unities had not been 
violated. It is clear, for example, that such a charaxter as that of liamlet 
could never have been developed within the limits to which Alfieri confined 
himself. Yet such was the reverence of literary men during the last century 
for these unities that Johnson, who, much to his honour, took the opposite side, 
was, as he says, "frightened at his own temerity," and "afraid to stand 
against the authorities which might be produced against him." 

There are other rules of the same kind without end. "Shakspeare," says 
Rymer, "ought not to have made Othello black; for the hero of a tragedy 
ought always to be white." "Milton," says another critic, "^ ought not to 
have taken Adam for his hero ; for the hero of an epic poem ought always to 
be victorious." "Milton," says anothej, "ought not to have put so many 
similes into his first book ; for the first book of an epic poem ought always to 
be the most unadorned. There are no similes in the first book of the Iliad." 
„ Milton," says another, ought not to have placed in an epic poem such lines as 
these : — 

" I also erred in overmuch admiring." 

And why not? The critic is ready with a reason*— a lady's reason. •* Such 


lines,** says he, "are not, it must be allowed, unpleasing to the ear, but the 
redundant syllable ought to be confined to the drama, and not admitted 
into epic poetry." As to the redundant syllable in heroic rhyme on serious 
subjects, it has been, from the time of Pope .downward, prescribed by the 
general consent of all the correct school. No magazine would have admitted 
so incorrect a couplet as that of DrajM;on : 

" As when we lived untouch'd with these disgraces, 
When as our kingdom was our dear embraces." 

Another law of heroic rhyme, which, fifty years ago, was considered as fun- 
damental, was, that there should be a pause, — a comma at least, at the end 
of every couplet. It was also provided that there should never be a full stop 
except at the end of a couplet. Well do we remember to have heard a most 
correct judge of poetry revile Mr. Rogers for the incorrectness of that most 
sweet and graceful passage, 

" *Twas thine, Maria, thine without a sigh 
At midnight in a sister's arms to die. 

Nursing the young to health." 

Sir Roger Newdigate is fairly entitled, we think, to be ranked among the 
great critics of this school. He made a law that none of the poems written 
for the Prize v/hich he established at Oxford should exceed fifty lines. This 
law seems to us to have at least as much foundation in reason as any of those 
which we have mentioned ; — nay, much more, for the world, we believe, is 
pretty well agreed in thinking that the shorter a prize-poem is, the better. 

We do not see why we should not make a few more rules of the same kind ; — ■ 
why we should not enact that the number of scenes in every act shall be 
thi-ee or some multiple of three, — that the number of lines in every scene shall 
be an exact square, — that the dramatis persona; shall never be more nor fewer 
than sixteen,-^and that, in heroic rhymes, every thirty-sixth line shall have 
twelve syllables. If we were to lay down these canons, and to call Pope, 
Goldsmith, and Addison incorrect writers for not having complied with our 
whims, we should act precisely as those critics act who find incorr"ctness in 
the magnificent imagery and the varied music of Coleridge and Shelley. 

The correctness which the last century prized so much resembles the cor- 
rectness of those pictures of the garden of Eden which we see in old Bibles. — 
We have an exact square, enclosea by the rivers Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, 
and Euphrates, each with a convenient bridge in the centre, — rectangular beds 
of flowers, — a long canal, neatly bricked and railed in, — the tree of knowledge, 
clipped like one of the limes behind the Tuileries, standing in the centre of 
the grand alley, — the snake twined round it,^he man on the right hand, the 
woman on the left, and the beasts drawn up in an exact circle round them. 
In one sense the picture is correct enough. That is to say, the squares»are 
correct ; the circles are correct ; the man and the woman are in a most 
correct line with the tree ; and the snake forms a most correct spiral. 

But if there were a painter so gifted that he could place on the canvas that ^^ "*/;- 
glorious paradise, seen by the interior eye of him whose outward sight had ^^'J^ 
failed with long watching and labouring for liberty and truth, — if there were 
a painter who could set before us the mazes of the sapphire brook, the lake 
with its fringe of myrtles, the flowery meadows, the grottoes overhung by 
vines, the forests shining with Hesperian fruit and with the plumage of gor- 
geous birds, the massy shade of that nuptial bower which showered down 
roses on the sleeping lovers, — what should we think of a connoisseur who 
should tell us that this painting, though finer than the absurd picture in the 
old Bible, was not so correct ? Surely we should answer, — It is both finer an4 


more correct ; and it is finer because it is more correct. It is not made up 
of correctly drawn diagrariis ; but it is a correct painting, — a worthy repre- 
sentation of that which it is intended to represent. 

It is not in the fine arts alone that this false correctness is prized by narrow- 
minded men, — by men who cannot distinguish means from ends, or what is 
accidental from what is essential. M. Jourdain admired correctness in fencing. 
" You had no business to hit me then. You must never thrust in quart till 
you have thrust in tierce.'*^ M. Tomes liked correctness in medical practice. 
** I stand up for Artemius. That he killed his patient is plain enough. But 
still he acted quite according to rule. A man dead is a man dead ; and there 
is an end of the matter. But if rules are to be broken, there is no saying 
what consequences may follow." We have heard of an old German officer 
who was a great admirer of correctness in military operations. He used to 
revile Bonaparte for spoiling the science of war, which had been carried to 
such exquisite perfection by Marshal Daun. "In my youth we used to 
march and countermarch all the summer without gaining or losing a sqtiare 
league, and then we went into winter quarters. And now comes an ignorant, 
hot-headed young man, who flies about from Boulogne to Ulm, and from 
Ulm to the middle of Moravia, and fights battles in December. The whole 
system of his tactics is monstrously incorrect." The world is of opinion, in 
spite of critics like these, that the end of fencing is to hit, that the end of 
medicine is'Vo cure, that the end of war is to conquer, and that those means 
are the most correct which best accomplish the ends. 

And has poetry no end, — ^no eternal and immutable principles? Is poetry, 
like heraldry, mere matter of arbitrary regulation? The heralds tell us that 
certain scutcheons and bearings denote certain conditions, and that to put 
colours on colours, or metals on metals, is false blazonry. If all this were 
reversed, — if every coat of arms in Europe were new fashioned, — if it were 
decreed that or should never be placed but on argent ^ or argent but on or^ — 
that illegitimacy should be denoted by a lozenge^ and widowhood by a bend, — 
the new science would be just as good as the old science, because both the 
new and the old would be good for nothing. The mummery of Portcullis 
and Rouge Dragon, as it has no other value than that which caprice has 
assigned to it, may well submit to any laws which caprice may impose on it. 
But it is not so with that great imitative art, to the power of which all ages, 
the rudest and the most enlightened, bear witness. Since its first great 
masterpieces were produced, everything that is changeable in this world has 
been changed. Civilisation has been gained, lost, gained again. Religions, 
and languages, and forms of government, and usages of private life, and 
modes of thinking, all have undergone a succession of revolutions. Every- 
thing has passed away but the great features of nature, and tue heart of man, 
and the miracles of that art of which it is the office to reflect back the heart 
of man and the features of nature. Those two strange old poems, the wonder 
of ninety generations, still retain all their freshness. They still command 
the veneration of minds enriched by the literature of many nations and ages. 
They are still, even in wretched translations, the delight of schoolboys. 
Having survived ten thousand capricious fashions, having seen successive 
codes of criticism become obsolete, they still remain immortal with the 
immortality of truth,— the same when perused in the study of an English 
scholar as when they were first chanted at the banquets of the Ionian princes. 

Poetry is, as that most acute of human beings, Aristotle said more than 
two thousand years ago, imitation. It is an art analogous in many respects 
to the arts of painting, sculpture, and acting. The imitations of the painter, 
the sculptor, and the actor, are, indeed, within certain limits, more perfect 


than those of the poet The machinery which the poet employs consists 
merely of words ; and words cannot, even when employed by such an artist as 
Homer or Dante, present to the mind images of visible objects quite so lively 
and exact as those which we carry away from looking on the works c/" the 
brush and the chisel. But, on the other hand, the range of poetry is infinitely 
wider than that of any other imitative art, or than that of all the other imitative 
arts together. The sculptor can imitate only form ; the painter only form 
and colour ; the actor, until the poet supplies him with words, only form, 
colour, and motion. Poetry holds the outer world in common with the other 
arts. The heart of man is the province of poetry, and of poetry alone. The 
painter, the sculptor, and the actor, when the actor is unassisted bv the poet, 
can exhibit no more of human passion and character than that small portion 
which overflows into the gesture and the face, — always an imperfect, often a 
deceitful sign— of that which is within. The deeper and more complex parts 
of human nature can be exhibited by means of words alone. Thus the ob- 
jects of the imitation of poetry are the whole external and the whole | internal 
universe, the face of nature, the vicissitudes of fortune,fman as he is in himself, 
man as he appears in society, all things of which we can form an image in our 
minds by combining together parts of things which really exist. The domain 
of this imperial art is commensurate with the imaginative faculty. 

An art essentially imitative ought not surely to be subjected to rules which 
tend to make its imitations less perfect than they otherwise would be ; and 
those who obey such rules ought to be called, not correct, but incorrect 
artists. The true way to judge of the rules by which English poetry was 
governed during the last century is to look at the effects which they 

It was in 1 780 that Johnson completed his Lives of the Poets. He tells 
us in that work that, since the time of Dryden, English poetry had shown no 
tendency to relapse into its general savageness, that its language had been 
refined, its numbers tuned, and its sentiments improved. It may, perhaps, be 
doubted whether the nation had any great reason to exult in the refinements 
and improvements which gave it Douglas for Othello, and the Triumphs of 
Temper for the Fairy Queen. 

It was during the thirty years which preceded the appearance of Johnson's 
Lives that the diction and versification of English poetry were, in the sense 
in which the word is commonly used, most correct. Those thirty years form 
the most deplorable part of our literary history. They have bequeathed to us 
scarcely any poetry which deserves to be remembered. Two or three hundred 
lines of Gray, twice as many of Goldsmith, a few stanzas of Beattie and 
Collins, a few strophes of Mason, and a few clever prologues and satires, 
were the masterpieces of this age of consummate excellence. They may all 
be printed in one volume, and that volume would be by no means a volume 
of extraordinary merit. It would contain no poetry ot the very highest class, 
and little which could be placed very high in the second class. The Paradise 
Regained or Comus would outweigh it all. 

At last, when poetry had fallen into such utter decay that Mr. Hayley was 
thought a great poet, it began to appear that the excess of the evil was about 
to work the cure. Men became tired of an insipid conformity to a standard 
which derived no authority from nature or reason. A shallow criticism had 
taught them to ascribe a superstitious value to the spurious correctness of 
poetasters. A deeper criticism brought them back to the true correctness 
of the first great masters. The eternal laws of poetry regained their power, 
and the temporary fashions which had superseded those laws went after the 
wic of LoYQlace and the hoop pf Clarissa. 



It was in a cold and barren season that the seeds of that rich haivest which 
fit hare reaped were first sown. While poetry was every year becoming 
nore feeble and more mechanical, — while the monotonous versification which 
i'ope had introduced, no longer redeemed by his brilHant wit and his com- 
Vactness of expression, palled on the ear of the public, — the great works of the 
#;ad were every day attracting more and more of the admiration which they 
f iserved. The plays of Shakespeare were better acted, better edited, and 
better known than they had ever been. Our noble old ballads were again 
read with pleasure, and it became a fashion to imitate them. Many of the 
imitations were altogether contemptible. But they showed that men had at 
least begun to admire the excellence which they could not rival. A literaiy 
revolution was evidently at hand. There was a ferment in the minds of men, 
— a vague craving for something new, a disposition «i» hail with delight any- 
thing which might at first sight wear the appearance of originality. A 
reforming age is always fertile of impostors. The same excited state of 
public feeling which produced the great separation from the see of Rome 
produced also the excesses of the Anabaptists. The same stir in the public 
mind of Europe which overthrew the abuses of the old French government, 
produced the Jacobins and Theophilanthropists. Macpherson and Delia Crusca 
were to the true reformers of English poetry what Knipperdoling was to 
Luther, or Clootz to Turgot. The public was never more disposed to believe 
stories without evidence, and to admire books without merit. Anything 
which could break the dull monotony of the correct school was acceptable. 

Tlae forerunner of the great restoration of our literature was Cowper. tlis 
literary career began and ended at neai'ly the same time with that of Alfieri. 
A parallel between Alfieri and Cowper may, at first sight, seem a"s unpromising 
as that which a loyal Presbyterian minister is said toliave drawn, in I745> be- 
tween George 11. and Enoch, It may seem that the gentle, shy, melancholy 
Calvinist, whose spirit had been broken by fagging at school, — who had not 
courage to earn a livelihood by reading the titles of bills in the House of 
I„ords, — ^and whose favourite associates were a blind old lady and an evangeli- 
'^l divine, could have nothing in common with the haughty, ardent, and 
voluptuous nobleman, — the horse jockey, the libertine, who fought Lord 
Ligonier in Hyde Park, and robbed the Pretender of his queen. But though 
the private lives of these remarkable men present scarcely any points of 
resemblance, their literary lives bear a close analogy to each other. They 
both found poetry in its lowest state of degradation, — feeble, artificial, and 
altogether nerveless. They both possess precisely the talents which fitted 
them for the task of raising it from that deep abasement. They cannot, in 
strictness, be called great poets. They had not in any very high degree the 
creative power, 

" The vision and the faculty divine ; " 

;>ut they had great vigour of thought, great warmth of feeling, — and what, i.. 
(their circumstances, was above ajl things important, a manliness of tasle 
which approached to roughness. They did not deal in mechanical versifica- 
tion and conventional phrases. They wrote concerning things the thoug ■ 
of which set their hearts on fire ; and thus what they wrote, even when 
wanted every other grace, had that inimitable grace which sincerity an ,- 
•trong passion impart to the rudest and most homely compositions. Ead- 
of them sought for inspiration in a noble and affecting subject, fertile ot 
jiaages which had not yet been hackneyed. Liberty was the muse of Alfieri, 
— Bteligion was the muse of Cowper. The same trutli is found in their lighter 
l|lte«s. They were not among those who deprecated the severity or deplored 

Moore* s life of Lord byro^. 163 

the absence of an unreal mistress in melodious commonplaces. Instead of 
raving about imaginary Chloes and Sylvias, Cowper vv^rote of Mrs. Unwin's 
knitting-needles. The only love-verses of Alfieri were addressed tv> one 
whom he truly ajid passionately loved. '*Tutte le rsxaa. amorose cha 
seguono," says he, "tutte sono per essa, e ben sue, e di .ei solamente ; 
poiche mai d' altra donna per certo non cantero." 

These great men were not free from affectation. But their affectation was 
directly opposed to the affectation which generally prevailed. Each of them 
expressed, in strong and bitter language, the contempt which he felt for the 
effeminate poetasters who were in fashion both in England and in Italy. 
Cowper complains that 

" Manner is all in all, whate'er is writ. 
The substitute for genius, taste, and wit." 

He praised Pope ; yet he regretted that Pope had 

" Made poetry a mere mechanic art, 
Aird every warbler had his tune by heart.* 

Alfieri speaks with similar scorn of the tragedies of his predecessors. **Mi 
cadevano dalle mani per la languidezza, triviality e prolissit^ dei modi e del 
verso, senza parlare poi della snervatezza dei pensieri. Or perche mai questa 
nostra divina lingua, si maschia anco, ed energica, e feroce, in bocca di 
Dante, dovi-a ella farsi cosi sbiadata ed eunucanel dialogo tragic© ?" 

To men tlms sick of the languid manner of their contemporaries ruggedness 
seemed a venial fault, or rather a positive merit. In their hatred of mere- 
tricious ornament, and of what Cowper calls " creamy smoothness," they 
erred on the opposite side. Their style was too austere, their versification too 
harsh. It is not easy, however, to overrate the service which they rendered 
to literature. Their merit is rather that of demolition than that of con- 
struction. The intrinsic value of their poems is considerable. But the ex- 
ample which they set of mutiny against an absurd system was invaluable. 
The part which they performed was rather that of Moses than that of Joshua. 
They opened the house of bondage j — but they did not enter the promised 
land. : ' 

During the twenty years which followed the death of Cowper, the revclli^- 
tion in English poetry was fully consummated. None of the writers of this' 
period, not even Sir Walter Scott, contributed so much to the consummation 
as Lord Byron. Yet Lord Byron contributed to it unwillingly, and with con- 
stant self-reproach and shame. All his tastes and inclinations led him to take 
part with the school of poetry which was going out against the school which 
was coming in. Of Pope himself he spoke with extravagant admiration. 
He did not venture directly to say that the little man of Twickenham was a 
greater poet than Shakespeare or Milton ; but he hinted pretty clearly that 
he thought so. Of his contemporaries, scarcely any had so much of his 
admiration as Mr. Gifford, who, considered as a poet, was merely Pope, with- 
out Pope's wit and fancy, and whose satires are decidedly inferior in vigour 
and poignancy to the very imperfect juvenile performance of Lord Byron 
himself. He now and then praised Mr. Wordsworth and Mr. Coleridge, but 
ungraciously and without cordiality. When he attacked them, he brought 
his whole soul to the work. Of the most elaborate of Mr. Wordsworth's 
poems he could find nothing to say, but that it was "clumsy, and frowsy, 
and his aversion." Peter Bell excited his spleen to such a degree that he 
apostrophized the shades of Pope and Dryden, and demanded of them 
whethe*- it ivere possible that such trash could evade contempt? In his heart 


he thought his own Pilgrimage of Harold inferior to his Imitation of Horace's 
Art of Poetry, — a feeble echo of Pope and Johnson. This insipid performance 
he repeatedly designed to publish, and was withheld only by the solicitations 
of his friends. He has distinctly declared his approbatiop- of the unities, the 
most absurd laws by which genius was ever held in servitude. In one of his 
works, we think in his letter to Mr. Bowles, he compares the poetry of the 
eighteenth century to the Parthenon, and that of the nineteenth to a Turkish 
mosque, and boasts that, though he had assisted his contemporaries in build- 
mg their grotesque and barbarous edifice, he had never joined them in defacing 
the remains of a chaster and more graceful architecture. In another letter he 
compares the change which had recently passed on English poetry to fche decay 
of Latin poetry after the Augustan age. In the time of Pope, he tells his 
friend, it was all),Horace with us. It is all Claudian now. 

For the great old masters of the art he had no very enthusiastic veneration. 
In his letter to Mr. Bowles he uses expressions which clearly indicate that he 
preferred Pope's Iliad to the original. Mr. Moore confesses that his friend 
was no very fervent admirer of Shakespeare. Of all the poets of the first 
class, Lord Byron seems to have admired Dante and Milton most. Yet in the 
fourth canto of Childe Harold he places Tasso, — a writer not merely inferior 
to them, but of quite a different order of mind, — on at least a footing of 
equality with them. Mr. Hunt is, we suspect, quite correct in saying that 
Lord Byron could see little or no merit in Spenser. 

But Lord Byron the critic and Lord Byron the poet were two very different 
men. The effects of the noble writer's theory may indeed often be traced in 
his practice. But his disposition led him to accommodate himself to the 
literary taste of the age in which he lived ; and his talents would have enabled 
him to accommodate himself to the taste of any age. Though he said much 
of his contempt for men, and though he boasted that amidst the inconstancy 
of fortune and of fame he was all-sufficient to himself, his literary career 
indicated nothing of that lonely and unsocial pride which he affected. We 
cannot conceive him, like Milton or Wordsworth, defying the criticism of his 
contemporaries, retorting their scorn, and labouring on a poem in the full 
assurance that it would be unpopular, and in the full assurance that it would 
be immortal. He has said, by the mouth of one of his heroes, in speaking 
of political greatness, that "he must serve who fain would sway;" and 
this he assigns as a reason for not entering into political life. He did 
not consider that the sway which he had exercised in literature had been 
purchased by servitude, — by the sacrifice of his own taste to the taste of the 

He was the creature of his age ; and whenever he had lived he would have 
been the creature of his age. Under Charles I. he would have been more 
quaint than Donne, Under Charles II. the rants of his rhyming plays would 
have pitted it, boxed it, and galleried it, with those of any Bayes or Bilboa. 
Under George I. the monotonous smoothness of his versification and th^ 
terseness of his expression would have made Pope himself envious; 

As it was, he was the man of the last thirteen years of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, and of the first twenty-three years of the nineteenth century. He be- 
longed half to the old, and half to the new school of poetry. His personal 
taste led him to the former; his thirst of praise to * the latter; — his talents 
were equally suited to both. His fame was a common ground on which the 
aealots on both sides, — Gifford, for example, and Shelley, — might meet. He 
was the representative, not of either literary party, but of both at once, and 
of their conflict, and of the victory by which that conflict was terminated. 
His poetry fills and measures the whole of the vast interval through which ouf 


literature has moved since the time of Johnson. It touches the Essay on Man 
at the one extremity, and the Excursion at the other. 

There are several parallel instances in literary history. Voltaire, for example, 
was the connecting link between the France of Louis XIV. and ne France of 
Louis XVL, — ^between Racine and Boileau on the one side, and Condorcet 
and Beaumarchais on the other. He, like Lord Byron, put himself at the 
head of an intellectual revolution, — dreading it all the time, — murmuring at 
it, — sneering at it, — yet choosing rather to move before his age in any direc- 
tion than to be left behind and forgotten. Dryden was the connecting 
Imk between the literature of the age of James I., and the literature of the 
age of Anne. Oromasdes and Arimanes fought for him. Arimanes carried 
him off. But his heart was to the last with Oromasdes. Lord Byron was, 
In the same manner, the mediator between two generations — between two 
hostile poetical sects. Though always sneering at Mr. Wordsworth, he was 
yet, though perhaps unconsciously, the interpreter between Mr. Wordswortli 
and the multitude. In the Lyrical Ballads and the Excursion Mr. Words- 
worth appeared as the high priest of a worship of which nature was the idol. 
No poems have ever indicated a more exquisite perception of the beauty of 
the outer world, or a more passionate love and reverence for that beauty. 
Yet they were not popular ; — and it is not likely that they ever will be popular 
as the poetry of Sir Walter Scott is popular. The feeling which pervaded 
them was too deep for general sympathy. Their style was often too mysterious 
for general comprehension. They made a few esoteric disciples, and many 
scoffers. Lord Byron founded what may be called an exoteric Lake school of 
j)oetry ; and all the readers of poetry in England, we might say in Europe, 
hastened to sit at his feet. What Mr. Wordsworth had said like a recluse, 
Lord Byron said like a man of the world — with less profound feeling, but with 
more perspicuity, energy, and conciseness. We would refer our readers to the 
last two cantos of Childe Harold and to Manfred, in proof of these obser- 

Lord Byron, like Mr. Wordsworth, had nothing dramatic in his genius. He 
was indeed the reverse of a great dramatist, the very antithesis to a great dra- 
matist. All his characters, — Harold looking back on the western sky, from 
which his country and the sun are disappearing together, — the Giaour, stand- 
ing apart in the gloom of the side- aisle, and casting a haggard scowl from under 
his long hood at the crucifix and the censer, — Conrad leaning on his sword by 
the watchtower, — Lara smiling on the dancers, — Alp gazing steadily on the 
fatal cloud as it passes before the moon, — Manfred wandering among the 
precipices of Berne, — Azzo on the judgment-seat, — Ugo at the bar, — Lambro 
frowning on the siesta of his daughter and Juan, — Cain presenting his unac- 
ceptable offering— are essentially the same. The varieties are varieties merely 
of age, situation, and outward show. If ever Lord Byron attempted to 
exhibit men of a different kind, he always made them either insipid or un- 
natural. Selim is nothing. Bonnivart is nothing. Don Juan, in the first 
and best cantos, is a feeble copy of the Page in the Marrurge of Figaro. 
Johnson, the man whom Juan meets in the slave-market, is a most striking 
failure. How differently would Sir Walter Scott have drawn a bluff, fearless 
Englishman, in such a situation 1 The portrait would have seemed to walk 
out of the canvas. 

Sardanapalus is more coarsely drawn than any dramatic personage that we 
can remember. His heroism and his effeminacy, — his contempt of death and 
his dread of a weighty helmet, — his kingly resolution to be seen in the fore- 
most ranks, and the anxiety with which he calls for a looking-glass, that he 
may be seen to advantajje, arc contrasted, it is true, with all the point oi 


Juvenal. Indeed, the hint of the character seems to have been taken from 
what Juvenal says of Otho : 

" Speculum civilis sarcina belli. 
Nimirum summi ducis est occidere Galbam, 
Et curare cutem summi constantia civis, 
Bedriaci in campo spolium affectare Palati, 
Et pressum in faclem digitis extendcre panem." 

These aie excellent lines in a satire. But it is not the busincLB of the dra- 
matist to exhibit characters in this sharp, antithetical way. It is not thus that 
Shakespeare makes Prince Hal rise from the rake of Eastcheap into the hero 
of Shrewsbury, and sink again into the rake of Eastcheap. It is not thus 
that Shakespeare has exhibited the union of effeminacy and valour in Antony. 
A dramatist cannot commit a greater error than that of following those pointed 
descriptions of character in which satirists and historians indulge so much. It 
is by rejecting what is natural that satirists and historians produce these 
striking characters. Their great object generally is to ascribe to every man as 
many contradictory qualities as possible : and this is an object easily attained. 
By judicious selection and judicious exaggeration, the intellect and the dispo- 
sition of any human being might be described as being made up of nothing 
but startling contrasts. If the dramatist attempts to create a being answering 
to one of these descriptions, he fails, because he reverses an imperfect 
analytical process. He produces, not a man, but a personified epigram. 
Very eminent writers have fallen into this snare. Ben Jonson has given us 
a Hermogenes, taken from the lively lines of Horace ; but the inconsistency 
which is so amusing in the satire appears unnatural and disgusts us in the play. 
Sir Walter Scott has committed a far more glaring error of the same kind in 
the novel of Peveril. Admiring, as every judicious reader must admire, the 
keen and vigorous lines in which Dryden satirised the Dulce of Buckingham, 
lie attempted to make a Duke of Buckingham to suit them — a real living 
Zimri ; and he made, not a man, but the most grotesque of all monsters. A 
writer who should attempt to introduce into a play or a novel such a Wharton 
as the Wharton of Pope, or a Lord Hervey answering to Sporus, would fall 
in the same manner. 

But to return to I^ord Byron ; his women, like his men, are all of one 
breed. Haidee is a half-savage and girlish Julia; Julia is a civilized and 
matronly Haidee. Leila is a wedded Zuleika, Zuleika a virgin Leila. 
Gulnare and Medora appear to have been intentionally opposed to each other. 
Yet the difference is a difference of situation only. A slight change of circum- 
stances would, it should seem, have sent Gulnare to the lute of Medora, and 
armed Medora with the dagger of Gulnare. 

It is hardly too much to say, that Lord Byron could exhibit only one man 
and only one woman, — a man proud, moody, cynical, — with defiance on his 
brow, and misery in .his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, 
yet capable of deep and strong affection : — a woman all softness and gentleness, 
.'oving to caress and to be caressed, but capable of being transformed by love 
into a tigress. 

Even these two characters, his only two characters, hd could not exhibit 
dramatically. He exhibited them in the manner, not of Shakespeare, but of 
Clarendon. He analysed them ; he made them analyse themselves ; but he 
did not make them show themselves. He tells us, for example, in many lines 
of great force and spirit, that the speech of Lara was bitterly sarcastic — that 
he talked little of his travels — that if he was much questioned about them, his 
?Tl!??wers became short, and his brow gloomy. But we have none of Lara's 
%^ ^castic speeches or short answers. It is not thus that the great masters of 


human nature have p(^rtrayed human beings. Homer never tells us that 
Nestor loved to relate long stories about his youth. Shakespeare never tells us 
that in the mind of lago everything that is beautiful and endearing was asso- 
ciated with some filthy ^nd debasing idea. 

It is curious to observe the tendency which the dialogue of Lord Byron 
always has to lose its character of a dialogue, and to become soliloquy. The 
?cenes between Manfred and the Chamois-hunter, — between Manfred and the 
Witch of the Alps, — between Manfred and the Abbot, are instances of this 
tendency. Manfred, after a few unimportant speeches, has all the talk to 
himself. The other interlocutors are nothing more than good listeners. They 
drop an occasional question of ejaculation which sets Manfred off again on the 
inexhaustilDle topic of his personal feelings. If we examine the fine passages 
in Lord Byron's dramas — the description of Rome, for example, in Manfred — 
the description of a Venetian revel in Marino Faliero — the invective which 
the old doge proiiounces against Venice, we shall find that there is nothing 
dramatic in theni, that they derive none of their effect from the character or 
situation of the speaker, and that they would have been as fine, or finer, if 
they had been published as fragments of blank verse by Lord Byron. There 
is scarcely a speech in Shakespeare of which the same could be said. No 
skilful reader of the plays of Shakespeare can endure to see what are called 
the fine things ;taken out, under the name of "Beauties," or of "Elegant 
Extracts," or to hear any single passage, " To be or not to be," for example, 
quoted as a sample of the great poet. " To be or not to be" has merit un- 
doubtedly as a composition. It would have merit if put into the mouth of a 
chorus. But its merit as a composition vanishes when compared with its 
merit as belonging to Hamlet. It is not too much to say that the great plays 
of Shakespeare would lose less by" being deprived of all the passages which are 
commonly called the fine passages than those passages lose by being read 
separately froin the play. This is, perhaps, the [highest praise which can be 
given to a dramatist. ■ i , 

On the otljer hand, it may be doubted whether there is, in all Lotd Byron's 
plays, a single remarkable passage which owes any portion of its interest or 
effect to its qonnection with the characters or the action. He has written only 
one scene, as /ar as we can recollect, which is dramatic even in manner — the 
scene between Lucifer and Cain. The conference in that scene is animated, 
and each of the interlocutors has a fair share of it. But this scene, when 
examined, will be found to be a confirmation of our remarks. It is a dialogue 
only in form. It is a soliloquy in essence. It is in reality a debate carried on 
r/ithin one single unquiet and sceptical mind. The questions and the answers, 
the objections and the solutions, all belong to the same character. 

A writer who showed so little dramatic skill in works professedly dramatic 
was not likely, to write narrative with dramatic effect. Nothing could indeed 
be more rude and careless than the structure of his narrative poems. He 
seems to have thought, with the hero of the Rehearsal, that the plot was good 
for nothing but to bring in fine things. His two longest works, Childe Harold 
and Don Juan, have no plan whatever. Either of them might have been 
extended to anjr length, or cut short at any point. The state in which the 
Giaour appears illustrates the manner in which all his poems were constructed. 
They are all, like the Girwur, collections of fragments ; and, though there 
ri'.rty be no empty spaces marked by asterisks, it is still easy to perceive, by the 
clumsiness, of the joining, where the parts for the sake of which the ^vhole 
was composed end and begin. 

It was in description and meditation that he excelled. "Description," as 
he said i» Don Tuan, " was his forte" His manner is indeed peculiar, and is 


almost unequalled ; — rapid, sketchy, full of vigour ; the selection happy ; the 
strokes few and bold. In spite of the reverence' which we feel for the genius 
of Mr. Wordsworth, we cannot but think that the minuteness of his descrip- 
tions often diminishes their effect. He has accustomed himself to gaze on 
nature with the eye of a lover, — to dwell on every feature, — and to mark every 
change of aspect. Those beauties which strike the most negligent observer, 
and those which only a close attention discovers, are equally familiar to him 
vs-nd are equally prominent in his poetry. The proverb of old Hesiod, that 
half is often more than the whole, is eminently applicable to description. 
The policy of the Dutch, who cut down most of the precious trees in the Spice 
Islands, in order to raise the value of what remained, was a policy which poets 
would do well to imitate. It was a policy which no poet understood better 
than Lord Byron. Whatever his faults might be, he was never, while his 
ttiind retained its vigour, accused of prolixity. 

. His descriptions, great as was their intrinsic merit, derived their principal 
interest from the feeling which always mingled with them. He was himself 
the beginning, the middle, and the end, of all his owni poetry, — the hero of 
every tale, — the chief object in every landscape. Harold, Lara, Manfred, and 
a crowd of other characters, were universally considered merely as loose in- 
cognitos of Byron ; and there is every reason to believe that he meant them 
to be so considered. The wonders of the outer world, — the Tagus, with the 
mighty fleets of England riding on its bosom, — the towers of Cintra over- 
hanging the shaggy forests of cork-trees and willows, — the glaring marble of 
Pentelicus, — the banks of the Rhine, — the glaciers of Clarens, — the sweet lake 
of Leman, — the dell of Egeria, with its summer-birds and rustling lizards, — 
the shapeless ruins of Rome overgrown with ivy and wall-flowers, — the stars, 
the sea, the mountains, — all were mere accessaries, — the background to one 
dark and melancholy figure. 

Never had any writer so vast a command of the whole eloquence of scorn, 
misanthropy, and despair. That Marah was never dry. No art could sweeten, 
no draughts could exhaust, its perennial waters of bitterness. Never was 
there such variety in monotony as that of Byron. From maniac laughter to 
piercing lamentation, there was not a single note of human anguish of which 
he was not master. Year after year, and month after month, he continued to 
repeat that to be wretched is the destiny of all ; that to be eminently wretched 
is the destiny of the eminent j that all the desires by which we are cursed 
lead alike to misery, — if they are not gratified, to the misery of disappoint- 
ment, — if they are gratified, to the misery of satiety. His principal heroes 
are men who have arrived by different roads at the same goal of despair,— 
who are sick of life, — who are at war with society, — who are supported in 
their anguish only by an unconquerable pride resembling that of Prometheus 
on the rock, or of Satan in the burning marl ; who can master their agonies by 
the force of their will, and who, to the last, defy the whole power of earth 
and heaven. Ek always described himself as a man of the same kind with 
his favouite creations, as a man whose heart had been withered, — whose capa- 
city for happiness was gone and could not be restored, but whose invincible 
spirit dared the worst that could befall him here or hereafter. 

How much of this morbid feeling sprang from an original disease of the 
mind, — how much from real misfortune, — how much from the nervousness of 
dissipation, — how much was fanciful, — how much of it was merely affected, — 
it is impossible for us, and would probably have been impossible for the most 
intimate friends of Lord Byron, to decide. Whether there ever existed, or can 
ever exist, a person answering to the description which he gave of himself, 
may be doubted : but that he was not such a person iy beyond all doubt. It 


is ridiculous to imagine that a man who mind was really im'jued with scorn of 
his fellow-creatures would have published three or four books every year in 
order to tell them so ; or that a man who could say with truth that he neither 
sought sympathy nor needed it would have admitted all Europe to hear his 
farewell to his wife, and his blessings on his child. In the second canto of 
\hilde Harold, he tells us that he is insensible to fame and obloquy : 

" 111 may such contest now the spirit move, 
Which heeds nor keen reproof nor partial praise," 

Yet we know on the best evidence that, a day or two before he published 
these lines, he was greatly, indeed childishly, elated by the compliments paid 
to his maiden speech in the House of Lords. 

We are far, however, from thinking that his sadness was altogether feigned. 
He was naturally a man of great sensibility ; — he had been ill-educated ; — his 
feelings had been early exposed to sharp trials ; — he had been crossed in his 
boyish love ; — he had been mortified by the failure of his first literary efforts : — 
he was straitened in pecuniary circumstances; — he was unfortunate in his 
domestic relations ; — the public treated him with cruel injustice ; — his health 
and spirits suffered from his dissipated habits of life ; — he was, on the whole, 
an unhappy man. He early discovered that, by parading his unhappiness 
before the multitude, he excited an unrivalled interest. The world gave him 
every encouragement to talk about his mental sufferings. The effect which 
his first confessions produced induced him to afTect much that he did not feel ; 
and the affectation probably reacted on his feelings. How far the character in 
which he exhibited himself was genuine, and how far theatrical, it would pro- 
bably have puzzled himself to say. 

There can be no doubt that this remarkable man owed the vast influence 
which he exercised over his contemporaries at least as much to his gloomy 
egotism as to the real power of his poetry. We never could very clearly 
landerstand how it is that egotism, so unpopular in conversation, should be so 
»)opular in writing ; or how it is that men who affect in their compositions 
qualities and feelings which they have not impose so much more easily on 
their contemporaries than on posterity. The interest which the loves of 
Petrarch excited in his own time, and the pitying fondness with which half 
Europe looked upon Rousseau, are well known. To readers of our age, the 
love of Petrarch seems to have been love of that kind which breaks no hearts, 
and the sufferings of Rousseau to have deserved laughter rather than pity, — 
to have been partly counterfeited, and partly the consequences of his own 
perverseness and vanity. 

What our grandchildren may think of the character of Lord Byron, as 
exhibited in his poetry, we will not pretend to guess. It is certain that the 
interest which he excited during his life is without a parallel in literary history. 
The feeling with which young readers of poetry regarded him can be con- 
ceived only by those who have experienced it. To people who are unacquainted 
with real calamity, ** nothing is so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy." This 
faint image of sorrow has in all ages been considered by young gentlemen as 
an agreeable excitement. Old gentlemen and middle-aged gentlemen have so 
many real causes of sadness that they are rarely inclined "to be as sad as 
night only for wantonness. " Indeed, they want the power almost as mach as 
tlie inclination. We know very few persons engaged in active life who, even 
if they were to procure stools to be melancholy upon, and were to sit down 
with all the premeditation of Master Stephen, would be able to enjoy much 
of what somebody calls the " ecstasy of woe." 
Amons; that large class of young persons whose reading is almost entirelf 


confined to works of imagination the popularity of Lord Byron was un- 
bounded. They bought pictures of him ; they treasured up the smallest relics 
of him ; triey learned his poems by heart, and did their best to write like him, 
and to look like him. Many of them practised at the glass in the hope of 
catching the curl of the upper lip, and tiie scowl of the brow, which appear 
in some of his portraits. A few discarded their neckcloths in imitation of 
their great leader. For some years the Minerva press sent forth no novel 
without a mysterious, unhappy, Lara-like peer. The number of hopeful 
undergi-aduates and medical students who became things of dark imaginings, 
— on whom the freshness of the heart ceased to fall like dew, -^ whose pas- 
sions had consumed themselves to dust, and to whom the relief of tears was 
denied, passes all calculation. This was not the worst. There was created 
in the minds of many of these enthusiasts a pernicious and absurd association 
between intellectual power and moral depravity. From the poetry of Lord 
Byron they drcM^ a system of ethics, compounded of misanthropy and volup- 
tuousness, a system in which the two great commandments were, to hate youi 
neighbour, and to love your neighbour's wife. 

The affectation has passed away ; and a few more years will destroy what- 
ever yet remains of that magical potency which once belonged to the name of 
Byron. To us he is still a man, young, noble, and unhappy. To our 
children he will be merely a writer ; and their impartial judgment will appoint 
his place among writers, without regard to his ralik or to his private history. 
That his poetry will undergo a severe sifting, that much of what has been ad- 
mired by his contemporaries will be rejected as worthless, we have little doubt. 
But we have as little doubt that, after the closest scrutiny, there will still 
remain much that can only perish with the English language. 


The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Including a Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, by 
James Boswell, Esq. A new Edition, with numerous Additions and Notes. By John 
Wilson Croker, LL.D., F.R.S. s vols. 8vo, London. 1831. 

This work has greatly disappointed us. "Whatever faults we may have been 
prepared to find in it, we fully expected that it would be a valuable addition 
to English literature ; that it would contain many curious facts, and many 
judicious remarks ; that the style of the notes would be neat, clear, and pre- 
cise ; and that the typographical execution would be, as in new editions of 
classical works it ought to be, almost faultless. We are sorry to be obliged 
to say that the merits of Mr. Croker's performance are on a par with those of 
a certain leg of mutton on which Dr. Johnson dined, while travelling from 
London to Oxford, and which he, with characteristic energy, pronounced to 
be ** as bad as bad could be ; ill fed, ill killed, ill kept, and ill dressed." That 
part of the volumes before us for which the editor is responsible is ill com- 
piled, ill arranged, ill written, and ill printed. 

Noth ng in the work has astonished us so much as the ignorance or care- 
lessness of Mr. Croker with respect to facts and dates. Many of his blunders 
are such as we should be surprised to hear any well educated gentleman com- 
mit, even in conversation. The notes absolutely swarm with misstatements 
into which the editor never would have fallen if he had taken the slightest 
pains to investigate the truth of his assertions, or if he had even been well 
acquainted with the book on which he undertook to comment. We will give 
a few instances. 

Mr. Croker tel^s us in a note that Derrick, who was master of the cere- 


monies at Bath, died very poor in 1760.* We read on; and, a few pages 
later, we find Dr. Johnson and Boswell talking of the same Derrick as still 
living and reigning, — as having retrieved his character, — as possessing so 
much power over his subjects at Bath, that his opposition might be fatal to 
wSheridan's lectures on oratory. + And all this is in 1763. The fact is that 
Derrick died in 1769. 

In one note we read, that Sir Herbert Croft, the author of that pompous 
and foolish account of Young, which appears among the Lives of the Poets, 
died in 1805. J Another note in the same volume states that this same Sir 
Herbert Croft died at Paris, after residing abroad for fifteen years, on the 
27th of April, i8i6.§ 

Mr. Croker informs us that Sir William Forbes, of Pitsligo, the author of 
the life of Beattie, died in i8i6.|| A Sir William Forbes undoubtedly died 
in that year, — but not the Sir William Forbes in question, whose death took 
place in 1806. It is notorious, indeed, that the biographer of Beattie lived 
just long enough to complete the history of his friend. Eight or nine years 
before the date which Mr. Croker has assigned for Sir William's death, Sir 
Walter Scott lamented that event in the introduction to the fourth canto of 
Marmion. Every school-girl knows the lines : 

" Scarce had lamented Forbes paid 
The tribute to his Minstrel's shade : 
The tale of friendship scarce was told. 
Ere the narrator's heart was cold ; 
Far may we search before we find 
A heart so manly and so kind ! " 

In one place we are told, that Allan Ramsay, the painter, was bom in 
1709, and died in 1784; IT in another, that he died in 1784, in the seventy- 
first year of his age.** If the latter statement be correct, he must have been 
born in or about 17 13. 

In one fplace Mr. Croker says, that at the commencement of the intimacy 
between Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale, in 1765, the lady was twenty-five 
years old.+t In other places he says that Mrs. Thrale's thirty-fifth year 
coincided with Dr.. Johnson's seventieth. J+ Johnson was born in 1709, If, 
therefore, Mrs. Thrale's thirty-fifth year coincided with Johnson's seventieth, 
she could have been only twenty-one year's old in 1765. This is not all. 
Mr. Croker, in another place, assigns the year 1777 as the date of the com- 
plimentary lines which Johnson made on Mrs. Thrale's thirty-fifth birthday. §§ 
If this date be correct, Mrs. Thrale must have been born in 1742, and could 
have been only twenty-three when her acquaintance with Johnson commenced. 
Two of Mr. Croker's three statements must be false. We will not decide 
between them ; we will only say, that the reasons which he gives for thinking 
that Mrs. Thralfr was exactly thirty-five years old when Johnson was seventy, 
appear to us utterly frivolous. 

/gain, Mr. Croker informs his readers that "Lord Mansfield survived 
Johnson Jull ten years." |1 H Lord Mansfield survived Dr. Johnson just eight 
years and a quarter. 

Johnson found in' the library of a French lady, whom he visited during his 
short visit to Paris, some works which he regarded with great disdain. ''I 
looked," says he, "into the books in the lady's closet, and, in contempt, 
showed them to Mr. Thrale. Prince Titi, — Biblioth^que des Fees, — and 
other books." H'ff ♦* The History of Prince Titi," observes Mr. Croker, " \ 


9 I. 394- t I. 404- , X IV. 321. § IV. 428. II II. a«», 

^ IV. 105. *• V. 88i. tt I. 5XO. tt IV. 271, 322. 

§§ m. 463. 111! i\. tsu fir HI. 911, 


said to be the autobiography of Frederick Prince of Wales, but was probably 
written by Ralph his secretary.'* A more absurd note never was penned. The 
history of Prince Titi, to which Mr. Croker refers, whether written by Prince 
Frederick or by Ralph, was certainly never published. If Mr. Croker had 
taken the trouble to read with attention that very passage in Park's Royal and 
Noble Authors which he cites as his authority, he would have seen that the 
manuscript was given up to the government. Even if this memoir had been 
printed, it is not very likely to find its way into a French lady's bookcase. 
And would any man in his senses speak contemptuously of a French lady, for 
having in her possession an English work, so curious and interesting as a Life 
of Prince Frederick, whether written by himself or by a confidential secretary, 
must have been ? The history at which Johnson laughed was a very proper 
companion to the Bibliotheque des Fees, — a fairy tale about good Prince Titi 
and naughty Prince Violent. Mr. Croker may find it in the Magasin des 
Enfans, the first French book which the little girls of England read to their 

Mr. Croker states that Mr. Henry Bate, who afterwards assumed the name 
of Dudley, was proprietor of the Morning Herald, and fought a duel with 
George Robinson Stoney, in consequence of some attacks on Lady Strathmore 
which appeared in that paper.* Now, Mr. Bate was then connected, not 
with the Morning Herald, but with the Morning Post ; and the dispute took 
place before th? Morning Herald was in existence. The duel was fought in 
January, 1777. The Chronicle of the Annual Register for that year contains 
an account of the transaction, and distinctly states that Mr. Bate was editor 
of the Morning Post. The Morning Herald, as any person may see by 
looking at any number of it, was not established till some years after this 
affair. For this blunder there is, we must acknowledge, some excuse ; for 
it certainly seems almost incredible to a person living in our time that any 
human being should ever have stooped to fight with a writer in the Morning 

"James deDuglas," says Mr. Croker, "was requested by ICing Robert 
Bruce, in his last hours, to repair with his heart to Jerusalem, and humbly to 
deposit it at the sepulchre of our Lord, which he did in 1329. "f Now, it 
is well known that he did no such thing, and for a very sufficient reason, — 
because he was killed by the way. Nor was it in 1329 that he set out. 
Robert Bruce died in 1329, and the expedition of Douglas took place in the 
following year, ^^ Quand le printems vint et la saison^'^ says Froissart, — in 
June, 1330, says. Lord Hailes, whom Mr. Croker cites as the authority for 
his statement. 

Mr. Croker tells us that the great Marquis of Montrose was beheaded at 
Edinffurgh in 1650. J There is not a forward boy at any school in England 
who does not know that the marquis was hanged. The account of the execu- 
tion is one of the finest passages in Lord Clarendon's History. We can 
scarcely suppose that Mr. Croker has never read that passage ; and yet we can 
scarcely suppose that any pei-son who has ever perused so noble and pathetic 
a story can have utterly forgotten all its most striking circumstances. 

'* Lord Townshend," says Mr. Croker, **was not secretary of state till 
1720." § Can Mr. Croker possibly be ignorant that Lord Townshend was 
made secretary of state at the accession of George I. in 1714, — that he con- 
tinued to be secretary of state till he was displaced by the intrigues of 
Sunderland and Stanhope at the close of 1716, — and that he returned to the 
office of secretary of state, not in 1720, but in 1721 ? Mr. Croker, indeed^ is 

» V. i9«. t IV. »9. X 11. 526 % III. s». 


generally unfortunate in his statements respecting the Townshend family. He 
tells us that Charles Townshend, the chancellor of the exchequer, was 
"nephew of the prime minister, and son of a peer who was secretary of state, 
and leader of the House of Lords."* Charles Townshend was not nephew, 
but grand-nephew of the Duke of Newcastle, — not son, but grandson, of the 
Lord Townshend who was secretary of state, and leader of the House of 

••General Burgojme suiTcndered at Saratoga," says Mr. Croker, ''in March, 
1778." t General Burgoyne surrendered on the 17th of October, 1777. 

••Nothing," says Mr. Croker, "can be more unfounded than the assertion 
that Byng fell a mart3rr to political party. By a strange coincidence of circum- 
stances, it happened that there was a total change of administration between 
his condemnation and his death : so that one party presided at his trial, and 
another at his execution : there can be no stronger proof that he was not a 
political martyr. "J Now, what will our readers think of this writer, when we 
assure them that this statement, so confidently made respecting events so 
notorious, is absolutely untrue ? One and the same administration was in 
office when the court-martial on Byng commenced its sittings, through the 
whole trial, at the condemnation, and at the execution. In the month of 
November, 1756, the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Hardwicke resigned ; the 
Duke of Devonshire became first lord of the treasury, and Mr. Pitt, secretary 
of state. This administration lasted till the month of April, 1757. Byng's 
court-martial began to sit on the 28th of December, 1756. He was shot on 
the 14th of March, 1757. There is something at once diverting and pro- 
voking in the cool and authoritative manner in which Mr. Croker makes these 
random assertions. We do not suspect him of intentionally falsifying history. 
But of this high literary misdemeanour we do without hesitation accuse him, — 
that he has no adequate sense of the obligation which a writer, who professes 
to relate facts, owes to the public. We accuse him of a negligence and an 
ignorance analogous to that crassa negligentia and that crassa ignorantia on 
which the law animadverts in magistrates and surgeons, even when malice 
and J corruption are not imputed. We accuse him of having undertaken a 
work which, if not performed with strict accuracy, must be very much (worse 
than useless, and of having performed it as if the difference between an accu- 
rate and an inaccurate statement was not worth the trouble of looking into 
the most common book of reference. 

But we must proceed. These volumes contain mistakes more gross, if pos- 
sible, than any that we have yet mentioned. Boswell has recorded some 
observations made by Johnson on the changes which took place in Gibbon's 
religious opinions. That Gibbon when a lad at Oxford turned Catholic is 
well known. ••It is said," cried the Doctor, laughing, "that he has been a 
Mahommedan." '•This sarcasm," says the editor, •'probably alludes to the 
tenderness with which Gibbon's malevolence to Christianity induced him to 
treat Mahommedanism in his history." Now the sarcasm was uttered in 1776; 
and that part of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 
which relates to Mahommedanism was not published till 1788, twelve years 
after the date of this conversation, and near four years after the death of Johnson. 
"It was in the year 1761," says Mr. Croker, ** that Goldsmith published 
his Vicar of Wakefield. This leads the editor to observe a more serious inac- 
curacy of Mrs. Piozzi than Mr. Boswell notices, when he says Johnson left her 
table to go and sell the Vicar of Wakefield for Goldsmith. Now, Dr. Johnson 
was not acquainted with the Thrales till 1765, four years after the book had 

« III. 368. t IV. B93. X I. 8g8. 


been published."* Mr. Croker, in reprehending the fancied inaccuracy of 
Mrs. Thrale, has himself shown a degree of inaccuracy, or, to speak more 
properly, a degree of ignorance, hardly credible. The Traveller was not pub- 
lished till 1765 ; and it is a fact as notorious as any in literary history, that the 
Vicar of Wakefild, though written before the Traveller, was published after 
it. It is a fact which Mr, Croker may find in any common life of Goldsmith, 
— in that written by Mr. Chalmers, for example. It is a fact which, as 
Boswell tells us, was distinctly stated by Johnson in a conversation with Sir 
Joshua Rejmolds. It is, therefore, quite possible and probable that the cele- 
brated scene of the landlady, the sheriff's officer, and the bottle of Madeira 
may have taken place in 1 765. Now, Mrs. Thrale expressly says that it was 
near the beginning of her acquaintance with Johnson, in 1765, or, at all events, 
hot later than 1 766, that he left her table to succour his friend. Her accuracy 
is, therefore, completely vindicated. 

The very page which contains this monstrous blunder contains another 
blunder, if possible, more monstrous still. ' Sir Joseph Mawbey, a foolish 
member of Parliament, at whose speeches and whose pigstyes the wits of 
Brookes's were, fifty years ago, in the habit of laughing most unmercifully, 
stated, on the authority of Garrick, that Johnson, while sitting in a coffee- 
house at Oxford, about the time of his doctor's degree, used some contemp- 
tuous expressions respecting Home's play and Macpherson's Ossian. " Many 
men," he said, "many women, and many children, might have written 
I>ouglas." Mr. Croker conceives that he has detected an inaccuracy, and 
glories over poor Sir Joseph in a most characteristic manner. ** I have quoted 
this anecdote solely with the view of showing to how little credit hearsay anec- 
dotes are in general entitled. Here is a story published by Sir Joseph Mawbey, 
a member of the House of Commons, and a person every way worthy of credit, 
who says he had it from Garrick. Now mark : — Johnson's visit to Oxford, 
about the time of his doctor's degree, was in 1754, the first time he had been 
there since he Isft the university. But Douglas was not acted till 1756, and 
Ossian not published till 1760. All, therefore, that is new in Sir Joseph 
Mawbey's story is false, "f Assuredly, v\^e need not go far to find ample proof 
that a member of the House of Commons may commit a very gross error. 
Now mark, say we, in the language of Mr. Croker. The fact is that Johnson 
took his Master's degree in 1754,+ and his Doctor's degree in 1775. § In the 
spring of 1776 |1 he paid a visit to Oxford, and at this visit a conversation re- 
specting the works of Home and Macpherson might have taken place, and, in 
all probability, did take place. The only real objection to the story ^Ir. 
Croker has missed. Boswell state*, apparently on the best authority, that as 
early, at least, as the year 1763, Johnson, in conversation with Blair, used the 
same expressions respecting Ossian w^hich Sir Joseph, represents him as having, 
used respecting Douglas.^ Sir Joseph or Garrick confounded, we suspect, the 
two stories. But their error is venial compared with tliat of Mr. Croker. 

We will not multiply instances of this scandalous inaccuracy. It is clear 
that a writer who, even wdien warned by the text on which he is commenting, 
falls into such mistakes as these, is entitled to no confidence whatever. Mr. 
Croker has committed an error of four years with respect to the publication of 
Goldsmith's novel, — an error of twelve years with respect to the publication 
of part of Gibbon's History,— an error of twenty-one years with respect to 
one of the most remarkable events in Johnson's life. Two of these three 
errors he has committed while ostentatiously displaying his own accuracy and 
correcting what he represents as the loose assertions of others. How can his 

• V..409. t V. 409. t I, 262. 5 HI. 205. II ni. 326. \ I-'4os. 


readers take on trust his statements concerning the births, marriages, divorces, ; 
and deaths of a crowd of people whose names are scarcely known to this 
generation ? It is not likely that a person who is ignorant of what almost 
everybody knows can know that of which almost everybody is ignorant. We 
did not open this book with any wish to find blemishes in it. We have made 
no curious researches. The work itself, and a very common knowledge of 
literary and political history, have enabled us to detect the mistakes which we 
have pointed out, and many other mistakes of the same kind. We must say, 
and we say it with regret, that we do not consider the authority of Mr. Croker, . . 
unsupported by oilier evidence, as sufficient to justify any writer who may fbl »;• 
, low him: in relating a single anecdote or in assigning a date to a single event. ' : 
/ Mr. Croker shows almost as much ignorance and heedlessness in his criti- 
cisms as in his statements concerning facts. Dr. Johnson said, very reasonably, 
as it appears to us, that some of the satires of Juvenal are too gross for imita- 
tion. Mr.. Croker, who, by the way, is angry with Johnson for defending 
Pxior's tales against the charge of indecency, resents this aspersion on Juvenal, 
and indeed refuses to believe that the doctor can have said anything so absurd. 
** He probably said — sovaQ passages oi them — for there are none of Juvenal's 
satires to which the same objection may be made as to one of Horace's, that it 
\5 altogether gross 2CR.dL licentious."* Surely Mr. Croker can never have reMl 
the second and ninth satires of Juvenal. 

Indeed, the decisions of this editor on' points of classical learning, though 
pronounced in a very authoritative tone, are generally such that, if a school- 
boy under our care were to utter them, our soul assuredly should not spare 
for his crying. It is no disgrace to a gentleman who has been engaged 
during near thirty years in political life that he has forgotten his Greek and 
Latin. But he becomes justly ridiculous if, when nd longer able to construe a 
plain sentence, he affects to sit in judgment on the most delicate questions of 
style and metre. From one blunder, a blunder which no good scholar would 
have made, Mr. Croker was saved, as he informs us, by Sir Robert Peel, who 
quoted a passage exactly in point from Horace. We heartily wish that Sir 
Robert, whose classical attainments are well known, had been more fre- 
quently consulted. Unhappily he was not always at his friend's elbow ; and 
we have, therefore, a rich abundance of the strangest errors. Boswell has pre- 
served a poor epigram by Johnson, inscribed *' Ad Lauram parituram." Mr 
Croker censures the poet for applying the word puella to a lady in Laura's 
situation, and for talking of the beauty of Lucina. "Lucina," he says, 
"was never famed for her beauty. "f If Sir Robert Peel had seen this note, 
he probably would have again refuted Mr. Croker's criticisms by an appeal to 
Horace. In the secular ode Lucina is used as one of the names of Diana, 
and the beauty of Diana is extolled by all the most orthodox doctors of the 
ancient mythology, from Homer in his Odyssey, to Claudian in his Rape d[ 
Proserpine, In another ode, Horace describes Diana as the goddess who^ 
assists the "laborantes utero puellas." But we are ashamed to detain our) 
readers with this fourth-form learning. i 

Boswell found, in his tour to the Hebrides, an inscription written by a 
Scotch minister. It runs thus : "Joannes Maclcod, &c., gentis suai Phil- 
archus, &c.. Florae Macdonald matrimonial! vinculo conjugatus turrem hanc 
Beganodunensem proccvorum habitaculum longe vetustissimum, diu penitus 
labefactatam, anno airre vulgaris MDCLXXXVi. instauravit." — "The minister," 
says Mr. Croker, " seems to have been no contemptible Latinist. Is not 
Philarchus a very happy term to express the paternal and kindly authority of 

tl. "M. 


tie head Of a clan?"* The composition of this eminent Latinist, short as it 
is, contains several words that are just as much Coptic as Latin, to say 
nothing of the incorrect structure of the sentence. The word Philarchus, 
even if it were a happy term expressing a paternal and kindly authority, 
would prove nothing for the minister's Latin, whatever it might prove for his 
Greek. But it is clear that the word Philarchus means, not a man who rules 
ty love, but a man who loves rule. The Attic writers of the best age use the 
;vord (piXapxos in the sense which we assign to it. Would Mr. Croker 
translate <f)l\bao(pos, a man who acquires wisdom by means of love, or 
^iKoKepdrjs, a man who makes money by means of love? In fact, it re- 
quires no Bentley or Casaubon to perceive that Philarchus is merely a false 
spelling for Phylarchus, — the chief of a tribe. 

Mr. Croker has favoured us with some Greek of his own. ** At the altir," 
says Dr. Johnson, "I recommended my 6 <f>." "These letters," says the 
editor, "(which Dr. Strahan seems not to have understood) probably mean 
OvTfTOL (pCKoi, departed friends. ^'^ Johnson was not a first-rate Greek scholar; 
but he knew more Greek than most boys when they leave school ? and no 
schoolboy could venture to use the word dvrjroc in the sense which Mr. 
Croker ascribes to it without imminent danger of a flogging. 

Mr. Croker has also given us a specimen of his skill in translating Latin. 
Johnson wrote a note in which he consulted his friend, Dr. Lawrence, on the 
propriety of losing some blood. The note contains these words : — " Si per 
te licet, imperatur nuncio Holderum ad me deducere." Johnson should 
rather have written "imperatum est." But the meaning of the words is 
perfectly clear. " If you say yes, the messenger has orders to bring Holder 
to me." Mr. Croker translates the words as follows : "If you consent, pray 
tell the messenger to bring Holder to me. "J If Mr Croker is resolved to 
write on points of classical learning, we would advise him to begin by giving 
an hour every morning to our old friend Corderius. 

Indeed, we cannot open any volume of this work in any place, and turn it 
over for two minutes in any direction, without lightmg on a blunder. John- 
son, in his life of Tickell, stated that a poem entitled the Royal Progress, 
which appears in the last volume of tiie Spectator, was written on the 
accession of George I. The word "arrival" was afterwards substituted for 
"accession.** "The reader will observe," says Mr. Croker, "that the Whig 
term accession^ which might imply legality, was altered into a statement of 
the simple fact of King George's arrival.'% Now Johnson, though a bigoted 
Tory, was not quite such a fool as Mr. Croker here represents him to be. In 
the Life of Granville, Lord Lansdowne, which stands a very few pages from 
the Life of Tickell, mention is made of the accession of Anne, and the acces- 
sion of George I. The word arrival was used in the Life of Tickell for the 
.simplest of all reasons. It was used because the subject of the Royal Pro- 
gress was the arrival of the king, and not his accession, which took place 
near two months before his arrival. 

The editor's want of perspicacity is, indeed, very amusing. He is perpetu- 
ally telling us that he cannot understand something in the text which is as 
plain as language can make it. " Mattaire," said Dr. Johnson, "wrote Latin 
verses from time to time, and published a set in his old age, which he called 
Seniliat in which he shows so little learning or taste in writing as to make 
Carteret a dactyl. "|| Hereupon we have this note: "The editor does not 
understand this objection, nor the following observation." The following 
observation, which Mr. Croker cannot understand, is simply this: "In 

• II. 45«. t IV. ajx. X V. 17. § IV. 435 fl IV, 335- 


matters of genealogy," says Johnson, "it is necessary to give the bare names 
as they are. But in poetry and in prose of any elegance in the writing, they 
require to have inflection given to them." If Mr. Croker had told Johnson 
that this was unintelligible, the doctor would probably have replied, as he 
replied on another occasion, " I have found you a reason, sir ; I am not 
bound to find you an understanding." Everybody who knows anything of 
Latinity knows that, in genealogical tables, Joannes Baro de Carteret, or 
Vicecomes de Carteret, may be tolerated, but that in compositions which 
pretend to elegance, Carteretus, or some other form which admits of inflec 
tions, ought to be used. 

All our readers have doubtless seen the two distichs of Sir William Jones, 
respecting the division of the time of a lawyer. One of the distichs is 
•translated from some old Latin lines ; the other is original. The former 
runs thus : 

" Six hours to sleep, to law's grave study six, 
Four spend in prayer, the rest on nature fix," 

** Rather," says Sir William Jones, 

" Six hours to law, to soothing slumbers seven. 
Ten to the world allot, and all to heaven," 

The second couplet puzzles Mr. Croker strangdy. "Sir William," says 
he, "has shortened his day to twenty-three hours, and the general advice 
of *all to heaven,* destroys the peculiar appropriation of a certain period to 
religious exercises,"* Now, we did not think that it was in human dulness to 
miss the meaning of the lines so completely. Sir William distributes twenty- 
three hours among various employments. One hour is thus left for devotion. 
The reader expects that the verse will end with — "and one to heaven." The 
whole point of the lines consists in the unexpected substitution of " all" for 
* one. " The conceit is wretched enough ; but it is perfectly intelligible, and 
never, we will venture to say, perplexed man, woman, or child before. 

Poor Tom Davies, after failing in business, tried to live by his pen. Johnson 
called him "an author generated by the corruption of a bookseller." This is 
a very obvious and even a commonplace allusion to the famous dogma of the 
old physiologists. Dryden made a similair allusion to that dogma before 
Johnson was born. Mr. Croker, however, is unable to understand what the 
doctor meant. "The expression," he says, " seems not quite clear. " And 
he proceeds to talk about the generation of insects, about bursting into gaudier 
life, and Heaven knows what.f 

There is a still stranger instance of the editor's talent for finding out diffi- 
culty in what is perfectly plain. "No man," said Johnson, "can now be 
made a bishop for his learning and piety." "From this too just observa- 
tion," says Boswell, "there are some eminent exceptions." Mr. Croker is 
puzzled by Boswell's very natural and simple language. " That a general 
observation should be pronounced too just, by the very person who admits 
that it is not universally just, is not a little odd. "J 

A very large proportion of the two thousand five hundred notes which thc- 
editor boasts of having added to those of Boswell and Malone consists of the 
flattest and poorest reflections, reflections such as the least intelligent reader 
is quite competent to make for himself, — and such as no intelligent reader 
would think it worth while to utter aloud. They remind us of nothing so 
much as of those profound and interesting annotations which are pencilled by 
sempstresses and apothecaries* boys on the dog-eared margins of novels 

• V. 833. t IV. 3*3. X III. aaS. 


borrowed from circulating libraries j — " How beautiful !" — " Cursed prosy!" 
—*' I don't like Sir Reginald Malcolm at all."—" I think Pelham is a sad 
dandy." — Mr. Croker is peipetually stopping us in our progress through the 
most delightful narrative in the language, to observe that really Dr. Johnson 
was very rude, — that he talked more for victory than for truth, — that his taste 
for port wine with capillaire in it was very odd, — that Boswell was imperti- 
nent, — that it was foolish in Mrs. Thrale to marry the music-master; and other 
" merderies" of the same kind, to borrow the energetic word of Rabelais. 

We cannot speak more favourably of the manner in which the notes are 
written than of the matter of which they consist. We find in every page 
words used in wrong senses, and constructions which violate the plainest 
rules of grammar. \Ve have the low vulgarism of **lnutual friend," for 
"common friend." We have "fallacy" used as synonymous with "false- 
hood" or "misstatement." We have many such inextricable labyrinths of pro- 
n9uns as that which follows : * ' Lord Erskine was fond of this anecdote ; he 
told it to the editor the first time that he had the honour of being in his com. 
pany." Lastly, we have a plentiful supply of sentences resembling those 
which we subjoin. " Markland, who, with Jortin and Thirlby, Johnson calls 
three contemporaries of great eminence."* "Warburton himself did not 
feel, as Mr. Boswell was disposed to think he did, kindly or gratefully of 
Johnson."t "It was him that Horace Walpole called a man who nevei 
made a bad figure but as an author. "J We must add that the printer has 
done his best to fill both the text and the notes with all sorts of blunders. In 
truth, he and the editor have between them made the book so bad, that we 
do not well see how it could have been worse. 

When we turn from the commentary of Mr. Croker to the work of our old 
friend Boswell, we find it not only worse printed than in any other edition 
with which we are acquainted, but mangled in the most wanton manner. 
r.Iuch that Boswell inserted in his nan-ative is, without the shadow of a reason, 
degraded to the appendix. The editor has also taken upon himself to alter 
or omit passages vv^hich he considers as indecorous. This prudery is quite 
unintelligible to us. There is nothing immoral in Boswell's book, nothing 
which tends to inflame the passions. He sometimes uses plain words. But 
if this be a taint which requires expurgation, it would be desirable to begin 
by expurgating the morning and evening lessons. Mr. Croker has performed 
the delicate office which he has undertaken in the most capricious manner. 
One strong, old-fashioned, English word, familiar to all who read their Bibles, 
is exchanged for a softer synonym in some passages, and suffered to stand 
unaltered in others. In one place a faint allusion made by Johnson to an 
indelicate subject, — an allusion so faint that, till Mr. Croker's note pointed it 
out to us, we had never noticed it, and of which we are quite sure that the 
meaning would never be discovered by any of those for whose sake books 
are expurgated, — is altogether omitted. In another place, a coarse and stupid 
jest of Dr. Taylor on the same subject, expr€ssed in the broadest language,^ 
almost the only passage, as far as we remember, in all Boswell's book, which 
we should have been inclined to leave out, — is suffered to remain. 

We complain, however, much more of the additions than of the omissions, 
We have half of Mrs. Thrale's book, scraps of Mr. Tyers, scraps of Mr. 
Murphy, scraps of Mr. Cradock, long prosings of Sir John Hawkins, and 
connecting observations by Mr. Croker himself, inserted into the midst oi 
Boswell's text. To this practice we most decidedly object. An editor might 
as well publish Thucydides with extracts from Diodorus interspersed, or in- 

* IV. 377. t IV. 415. % n. 461. 


corporate the Lives of Suetonius with the History end Annals of Tacitus. 
Mr. Croter tells us, indeed, that he has done only what Bosweil wished to 
do, and was prevented from doing by the law of copyright. We doubt this 
greatly. Bosweli has studiously abstained from availing himself of the in- 
formation given by his rivals, on many occasions on which he might ha re 
cited them without subjecting himself to the charge of piracy. Mr. Croker 
has himself, on one occasion, remarked very justly that Eoswell was very 
reluctant to owe any obligation to Hawkins. But, be this as it may, if 
Bosweil had quoted from Sir John and from Mrs. Thrale, he would have been 
guided by his own taste and judgment in selecting his quotations. On what 
he quoted he would have commented with perfect freedom ; and the borrowed 
passages, so selected, and accompanied by such comments, would have be- 
come original. They would have, dovetailed into the work. — No hitch, no 
crease, would have been discernible.. The whole would appear one and 

" Ut per Iseve severos 
Effundatjunctura ungues.' 

This is not tlie case with Mr. Croker's insertions. They are not chosen as 
Bosweil would have chosen them. They are not introduced as Bosweil 
would have introduced them. They differ from the quotations scattered 
through the original Life of Johnson, as a withered bough stuck in the ground 
differs from a tree skilfully transplanted with all its life about it. 

Not only do these anecdotes disfigure Bosv/ell's book ; they are themselves 
disfigured by being inserted in his book. The charm of Mrs. Thrale's little 
volume is utterly destroyed. The feminine quickness of observation, — the 
feminine softness of heart, — the colloquial incorrectness and vivacity of style, 
— the little amusing airs of a half-learned lady, — the delightful garrulity, — 
the "dear Doctor Johnson," — the "it was so comical," — all disappear in 
Mr. Croker's quotations. -^The lady ceases to speak in the first person ; and 
her anecdotes, in the process of transfusion, become as flat as champagne in 
decanters, or Herodotus in Beloe's version. Sir John Hawkins, it is true, 
loses nothing ; and for the best of reasons. Sir John had nothing to lose. 

The course which Mr. Croker ought to have taken is quite clear. He 
should have reprinted Boswell's narrative precisely as Bosweli wrote it ; and 
in the notes or the appendix he should have placed any anecdotes Which he 
might have thought it advisable to quote from other writers. This would have 
been a much more convenient course for the reader, who has now constantly to 
keep his eye on the margin in order to see whether he is perusing Bosweil, 
Mrs. Thrale, Murphy, Hawkins, Tyers, Cradock, or Mr. Croker. \Ve greatly 
doubt whether even the Tour to the Hebrides ought to have been inserted in 
the midst of the I^ife. There is one marked distinction between the two waks. 
■Most of the Tour was seen by Johnson in manuscript. It does not appear ihat 
he ever saw any part of the Life. 

We love, we own, to read the great productions of the human mind as they 
were written. We have this feeling even about scientific treatises ; though we 
know that th^ Sciences are always in a state of progression, and that the altera- 
tions made by a modem editor in an old book on any branch of natural or 
political phiI6sophy are likely to lie impi-ovemcnts. Many errors have been 
detected by writers of this generation in the speculations of Adam Smith. A 
short cut hrrsbeen made to much knowledge at which Sir Isaac Newton arrived 
'through arduous and circuitous paths. Yet we still look with peculiar vencra- 
'tion on the Wealth of Nations and on the Principia, and should regret to sec 
"cither of those great works garbled even by the ablest hands. But in works 
which ow6^tnuch of their interest to th6 character and situation of the writers 


the case is infinitely stronger. What man of taste and feeling can endure 
harmonies, rifacimentiy abridgments, expurgated editions ? Who evrr reads a 
stage-copy of a play when he can procure the original ? Who ever cut open 
Mrs. Siddons's Milton ? Who ever got through ten pages of Mr. Gilpin's 
translation of J ohn Bunyan's Pilgrim into modem English ? Who would lose, 
in the confusion of a Diatessaron, the peculiar charm which be'-jngs to the 
narrative of the disciple whom Jesus loved? The feeling of a reader who has 
become intimate with any great original work is that which Adam expressed 
towards his bride : 

" Should God create another Eve, and I 

Another rib afford, yet loss of thee 

Would never from my heart." 

No substitute, however exquisitely formed, will fill the void left by the original. 
The second beauty may be equal or superior to the first ; but still it is 
not she. 

• The reasons which Mr. Croker has given for incorporating passages from Sir 
John Hawkins and Mrs. Thrale with the narrative of Bosweli would vindicate 
the adulteration of half the classical works in the language. If Pepys's Diary 
and Mrs. Hutchinson's Memoirs had been published a hundred years ago, no 
human being can doubt that Mr. Hume would have made great use of those 
books in his History of England. But would it, on that account, be judicious in 
a writer of our own times to publish an edition of Hume's History of England, in 
which' large additions from Pepys and Mrs. Hutchinson should be incorporated 
with the original text ? Surely not. Hume's history, be its favdts what they 
may, is now one great entire work, the production of one vigorous mind, work- 
ing on such materials as were within its reach. Additions made by anothe* 
hand may supply a particular deficiency, but would grievously injure the general 
effect. With Bos well's book the case is stronger. There is scarcely, in the 
whole compass of literature, a book which bears interpolation so ill. We know 
no production of the human mind which has so much of what may be called 
the race, so much of the peculiar flavour of the soil from which it sprang. The 
work could never have been written if the writer had not been precisely what 
he was. His character is displayed in every page, and this display of character 
gives a delightful interest to many passages which have no other interest. 

The Life of Johnson is assuredly a great — a very great work. Homer is not 
more decidedly the first of heroic poets, — Shakespeare is not more decidedly the 
first of dramatists, — Demosthenes is not more decidedly the first of orators, 
than Bosweli is the first of biographers. He has no second. He has distanced 
all his competitors so decidedly that it is not worth while to place them. 
Eclipse is first, and the rest nowhere. 

We are not sure that there is in the whole history of the human intellect so 
strange a phenomenon as this book. Many of the greatest men that ever lived 
have written biography. Bosweli was one of the smallest men that ever lived, 
and he has beaten them all. He was, if we are to give any credit to his own 
account or to the united testimony of all who knew him, a man of the meanest 
and feeblest intellect. Johnson described him as a fellow who had missed his 
o->ly chance of immortality by not having been alive when the Dunciad was 
written. Beauclerk used his name as a proverbial expression for a bore. He 
was the laughing-stock of the whole of that brilliant society which has owed to 
him the greater part of its fame. He was always laying himself at the feet of 
some eminent man, and begging to be spit upon and trampled upon. He was 
always earning some ridiculous nickname, and then " binding it as a crown unto 
him," — not merely ia metaphor, but literally. He exhibited himself, at the 
Shakespeare Jubilee, to all the crowd which filled Stratford* on- Avon, wit^ » 


placard round his hat bearing the inscription of Corsica Boiwell. In his Tour, 
he proclaimed to all the world that at Edinburgh he was known by the appella- 
tion of Paoli Bos-well. Servile and impertinent, — shallow and pedantic, — a 
bigot and a sot, — bloated with family pride, and eternally blustering about the 
dignity of a bom gentleman, yet stooping to be a tale-bearer, an eaves-dropper, 
a common butt in the taverns of London, — so curious to know everybody who 
was talked about, that, Tory and high Churchman as he was, he manoeuvred, 
we have been told, for an introduction to Tom Paine, — so vain of the most 
childish distinctions, that when he had been to court, he drove to the office 
where his 'ftook was printing, without changing his clothes, and summoned all 
the printer's devils to admire his new ruffles and sword ; — such was this man, 
— and such he was content and proud to be. Everything which another man 
would have hidden, — everything the publication of which would have made 
another man hang himself, was matter of gay and clamorous exultation to his 
weak and diseased mind. What silly things he said, — what bitter retorts he 
provoked, — how at one place he was troubled with evil presentiments which 
came to nothing, — how at another place, on waking from a dmnken doze, he 
read the Prayer-book and took a hair of the dog that had bitten him, — how he 
went to see men hanged, and came away maudlin, — how he added five hundred 
pounds to the fortune of one of his babies because she was not frightened at 
Johnson's ugly face, — how he was frightened out of his wits at sea, — and how 
the sailors quieted him as they would have quieted'a child, — how tipsy he was at 
Lady Cork's one evening, and how much his merriment annoyed the ladies, — ^how 
impertinent he was to the Duchess of Argyle, and with what stately contempt 
she put down his impertinence, — how Colonel Macleod sneered to his face at 
his impudent obtrusiveness, — how his father and the very wife of his bosom 
laughed and fretted at his fooleries ; — all these things he proclaimed to all the 
world, as if they had been subjects for pride and ostentatious rejoicing. All 
the caprices of his temper, all the illusions of his vanity, all his hypochondriac 
whimsies, all his castles in the air, he displayed with a cool self-complacency, 
a perfect unconsciousness that he was making a fool of himself, to which it is 
impossible to find a parallel in the whole history of mankind. He has used 
many people ill ; but assuredly he has used nobody so ill as himself. 

That such a man should have written one of the best books in the world is 
strange enough. But this is not all. Many persons who have conducted them- 
selves foolishly in active life, and whose conversation has indicated no superior 
powers of mind, have left us valuable works. Goldsmith was very justly 
described by one of his contemporaries as an inspired idiot, and by another as 
a bc'ng 

" Who wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll." 

La Fontaine was in society a mere simpleton. His blunders would not com* 
in amiss among the stories of Hierocles. But these men attained literary 
eminence in spite of their weaknesses. Boswell attained it by reason of his 
weaknesses. If he had not been a great fool, he would never have been a 
great writer. Without all the qualities which made him the jest and the torment 
of those among whom he lived, — without the officiousness, the inquisitive- 
ness, the effrontery, the toad-eating, the insensibility to all reproof, he never 
could have produced so excellent a book. He was a slave proud of his servi- 
tude, — a Paul Pry, convinced that his own curiosity and garrulity were virtues, 
— an unsafe companion who never scrupled to repay the most liberal hos» 
pitality by the basest violation of confidence, — a man without delicacy, without 
shame, without sense enough to know when he was hurting the feelings of 
Others, or when he was exposing himself to derision j ftUd because he ww 


all this, he has, in an important department of literature, immeasurably 
surpassed such writers as Tacitus, Clarendon, Alfieri, and his own idol, 

Of the talents which ordinarily raise men to eminence as writers, Boswell 
had absolutely none. There is not in all his books a single remark of his 
own on literature, politics, religion, or society, which is not either common- 
place or absurd. His dissertations on hereditary gentility, on the sb""<e-trade, 
and on the entailing of landed estates, may serve as examples. To say that 
these passages are sophistical would be to pay them an extravagant compli- 
nent. They have no pretence to argument, or even to meaning. He has 
reported innumerable observations made by himself in the course of conver- 
isation. Of those observations we do not remember one which is above the 
intellectual capacity of a boy of fifteen. He has printed many of his own 
letters, and in these letters he is always ranting or twaddling. Logic, elo- 
quence, wit, taste, all those things which are generally considered as making 
a book valuable, were utterly wanting to him. He had, indeed, a quick 
observation and a retentive memory. These qualities, if he had been a man 
of sense and virtue, would scarcely of themselves have sufficed to make him 
conspicious ; but as he was a dunce, a parasite, and a coxcomb, they have 
made him immortal. 

Those parts of his book which, considered abstractedly, are most utterly 
worthless, are delightful when we read them as illustrations of the cha- 
racter of the writer. Bad in themselves, they are good dramatically, like the 
nonsense of Justice Shallow, the clipped English of Dr. Caius, or the mis-^ 
placed consonants of Fluellen. Of all confessors, Boswell is the most candid. 
Other men who have pretended to lay open their own hearts, — Rousseau, for 
example, and Lord Byron, — have evidently written with a constant view tc 
effect, and are to be then most distrusted when they seem to be most sincere. 
There is scarcely any man who would not rather accuse himself of great 
crimes and of dark and tempestuous passions than proclaim all his little 
vanities and wild fancies. It would be easier to find a person who would 
avow actions like those of Cassar Borgia or Danton, than one who would 
publish a day-dream like those of Alnaschar and Malvolio. Those weaknesses 
which most men keep covered up in the most secret places of the mind, not 
to be disclosed to the eye of friendship or of love, were precisely the weak- 
nesses which Boswell paraded before all the world. He was perfectly frank, 
because the weakness of his understanding and the tumult of his spirits pre- 
vented him from knowing when he made himself ridiculous. His book 
resembles nothing so much as the conversation of the inmates of the Palace 
of Truth. 

His fame is great ; and it will, we have no doubt, be lasting ; but it is 
fame of a peculiar kind, and indeed marvellously resembles infamy. We 
remember no other case in which the world has made so great a distinction 
between a book and its author. In general, the book and the author are 
considered as one. To admire the book is to admire the author. The case of 
Boswell is an exception, — we think the only exception, to this rule. His 
work is universally allowed to be interesting, instructive, eminently original ; 
yet it has brought him nothing but contempt. All the world reads it : all the 
world delights in it : yet we do not remember ever to have read or ever to 
have heard any expression of respect and admiration for the man to whom we 
owe so much instruction and amusement. While edition after edition of his 
book was coming forth, his son, as Mr. Croker tells us, was ashamed of it, 
and hated to- hear it mentioned. This feeling was natural and reasonable. 
Sir Alexander saw that, in proportion to the celebrity of the work, was th« 


degradation of the author. The very editors of this unfortunate gentleman's 
books have forgotten their allegiance, and, like those Puritan casuists who 
took arms by the authority of the king against his person, have attacked the 
writer while doing homage to the writings. Mr. Croker, for example, has 
published two thousand five hundred notes on the life of Johnson, and yet 
scarcely ever mentions the biographer whose performance he has taken such 
pains to illustrate without some expression of contempt. 

An ill-natured man Boswell certainly was not. Yet the malignity of the 
most malignant satirist could scarcely cut deeper than his thoughtless 
loquacity. Having himself no sensibility to derision and contempt, he took 
it for granted that all others were equally callous. He was not ashamed to 
exhibit himself to the whole world as a common spy, a common tattler, a 
humble companion without the excuse of poverty, — and to tell a hundred 
stories of his own pertness and folly, and of the insults which his pertness 
and folly brought upon him. It was natural that he should show little dis- 
cretion in cases in which the feelings or the honour of others might be con- 
cerned. No man, surely, ever published such stories respecting persons 
whom he professed to love and revere. He would infallibly have made his 
hero as contemptible as he has made himself, had not his hero really pos- 
sessed some moral and intellectual qualities of a very high order. The best 
proof that Johnson was really an extraordinary man is that his character, 
instead of being degraded, has, on the whole, been decidedly raised by a 
work in which all his vices and weaknesses are exposed more unsparingly than 
they ever v/ere exposed by Churchill or by Kenrick. 

Johnson grown old, Johnson in the fulness of his fame and in the enjoy- 
ment of a competent fortune, is better known to us than any other man in 
histoiy. Everything about him, — his coat, his wig, his figure, his face, his 
scrofula, his St. Vitus's dance, his rolling walk, his blinking eye, the outward 
signs which too clearly marked his approbation of his dinner, his insatiable 
appetite for fish-sauce and veal-pie with plums, his inextinguishable thirst 
for tea, his trick of touching the posts as he walked, his mysterious practice 
of treasuring up scraps of orange-peel, his morning slumbers, his midnight 
disputations, his contortions, his mutterings, his gruntings, his puffings, his 
vigorous, acute, and ready eloquence, his sarcastic wit, his vehemence, his 
insolence, his fits of tempestuous rage, his queer inmates, — old Mr. Levettand 
blind Mrs. Williams, the cat Hodge and the negro Frank, — all are as familiar 
to us as the objects by which we have been surrounded from childhood. But 
we have no minute information respecting those years of Johnson's life 
during which his character and his manners became immutably fixed. We 
know him, not as he was known to the men of his own generation, but as he 
was known to men whose father he might have been. That celebrated club 
of which he was the most distinguished member contained few persons who 
could remember a time when his fame was not fully established and his 
jiabits completely formed. He had made himself a name in literature while 
Reynolds and the Wartons were still boys. He was about twenty years older 
than Burke, Goldsmith, and Gerard Hamilton, about thirty years older than 
Gibbon, Beauclerk, and Langton, and about forty years older than Lord 
Stowell, Sir William Jones, and Windham. Boswell and Mrs. Thrale, the 
two writers from whom we derive most of our knowledge respecting him, 
never saw him till long after he was fifty years old, till most of his great works 
had become classical, and till the pension bestowed on him by the Crown had 
placed him above poverty. Of those eminent men who were his most inti- 
mate associates towards the close of his life, the only one, as far as we remem« 
ber, who knev/ him during the first ten or twelve years of his residence in the 


capital, was David Garrick ; and it does not appear that during those years 
David Garrick saw much of his fellow-townsman. 

Johnson came up to London precisely at the time when the condition of a 
man of letters was most miserable and degraded. It was a dark night between 
two sunny days. The age of the Maecenases had passed away. The age of 
general curiosity and intelligence had not arrived. The number of readers is 
at present so great that a popular author may subsist in comfort and opulence 
on the profits of his works. In the reigns of William III., of Anne, and of 
George I., even such men as Congreve and Addison would scarcely have been 
able to live like gentlemen by the mere sale of their writings. But the defi- 
ciency of the natural demand for literature was, at the close of the seventeenth 
' and at the beginning of the eighteenth century, more than made up by artifi- 
cial encouragement, — by a vast system of bounties and premiums. There 
was, perhaps, never a time at which the rewards of literary merit were so 
splendid, — at which men who could write well found such easy admittance 
into the most distinguished society, and to the highest honours of the state. 
The chiefs of both the great parties into which the kingdom was divided 
patronised literature with emulous munificence. Congreve, when he had 
scarcely attained his majority, was rewarded for his first comedy with places 
which made him independent for life. Smith, though his Hippolytus and 
Phaedra failed, would have been consoled with three hundred a-year but for 
his own folly. Rowe was not only poet laureate, but also land-surveyor of the 
Customs in the port of London, clerk of the council to the Prince of Wales, 
and secretary of the Presentations to the Lord Chancellor. Hughes was 
secretary to the Commissions of the Peace. Ambrose Philips was judge of 
the Prerogative Court in Ireland. Locke was Commissioner of Appeals and 
of the Board of Trade. Nev/ton was Master of the Mint. Stepney and 
Prior were employed in embassies of high dignity and importance. Gay, who 
commenced life as apprentice to a silk mercer, became a secretary of Lega- 
tion at five-and- twenty. It was to a poem on the Death of Charles II., and 
to the City and Country Mouse, that Montague owed his introduction into 
public life, his earldom, his garter, and his auditorship of the Exchequer. 
Swift, but for the unconquerable prejudice of the queen, would have been a 
bishop. Oxford, with his white staff in his hand, passed through the crowd 
of his suitors to welcome Parnell, when that ingenious writer deserted the 
Whigs. Steele was a commissioner of stamps and a member of ParUament. 
Arthur Mainwaring was a commissioner of the Customs and auditor of the 
imprest. Tickell was secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland. Addison 
was secretary of state. 

This liberal patronage was brought into fashion, as it seems, by the mag- 
nificent Dorset, who alone of all the noble versifiers in the court of Charles II. 
possessed talents for composition which would have made him eminent with- 
out the aid of a coronet. Montague owed his elevation to the favour of Dorset, 
and imitated through the v/hole course of his life the liberality to which he 
was himself so greatly indebted. The Tory leaders, — Harley and Boling- 
broke in particular, — vied with the chiefs of the Whig party in zeal for the 
encouragement of letters. But soon after the accession of the house of 
Hanover a change took place. The supreme power passed to a man who 
cared little for poetry or eloquence. The importance of the House of Com- 
mons was constantly on the increase. The government was under the necessity 
of bartering for Parliamentary support much of that patronage which had been 
employed in fostering literary merit ; and Walpole was by no means inclined 
to divert any part of the fund of corruption to purposes which he considered 
as idle. He had eminent talents for government and for debate. But he had 


paid little attention to books, and felt little respect for authors. One of the 
coarse jokes of his friend Sir Charles Hanbury Williams was far more pleasing 
to him than Thomson's Seasons or Richardson's Pamela. He had observed that 
some of the distinguished writers whom the favour of Halifax had turned into 
statesmen had been mere encumbrances to their party, dawdlers in office and 
mutes in Parliament. During the whole course of his administration, there- 
fore, he scarcely befriended a single man of genius. The best writers of the 
age gave all their support to the opposition, and contributed to excite that dis- 
content which, after plunging the nation into a foolish and unjust war, over- 
threw the minister to make room for men less able and equally unscrupulous. 
The opposition could reward its eulogists with little more than promises 
and caresses. St. James's would give nothing : — Leicester House had nothing 
to give. 

Thus, at the time when Johnson commenced his literary career, a writer had 
little to hope from the patronage of powerful individuals. The patronage of 
the public did not yet furnish the means of comfortable subsistence. The 
prices paid by booksellers to authors were so low that a man of considerable 
talents and imremitting industry could do little more than provide for 
the day which wa«i passing over him. The lean kine had eaten up the fat 
kine. The thin and withered ears had devoured the good ears. The season 
of rich harvests was over, and the period of famine had begun. All that is 
squalid aud miserable might now be summed up in the word — Poet. That word 
denoted a creature dressed like a scarecrow, familiar with compters and spong- 
ing-houses, and perfectly qualified to decide on the comparative merits of the 
Common Side in the King's Bench prison and of Mount Scoundrel in the 
fleet. Even the poorest pitied him ; and they well might pity him. For if 
their condition was equally abject, their aspirings were not equally high, nor 
their sense of insult equally acute. To lodge in a garret up four pair of stairs, 
to dine in a cellar among footmen out of place, — to translate ten hours a day 
for the wages of a ditcher, — to be hunted by bailiffs from one haunt of beggary 
and pestilence to another, from Grub Street to St. George's Fields, and from 
St. George's Fields to the alleys behind St. Martin's Church, — to sleep on a 
bulk in June and amidst the ashes of a glass-house in December, — to die in 
a hospital, and to be buried in a parish vault, was the fate of more than one 
writer who, if he had lived thirty years earlier, would have been admitted to 
the sittings of the Kitcat or the Scriblerus club, would have sat in Parliament, 
and would have been entrusted with embassies to the High Allies ; who, if he 
had lived in our time would have received from the booksellers several hundred 
pounds a year. 

As every climate has its peculiar diseases, so every walk of life has its pecu- 
liar temptations. The literary character, assuredly, has always had its share 
of faults, — vanity, jealousy, morbid sensibility. To these faults were now 
superadded all the faults which are commonly found in men whose livelihood 
is precarious, and whose principles are exposed to the trial |of severe distress. 
All the vices of the gambler and of the beggar were blended with those of 
the author. The prizes in the wretched lottery of book-making were scarcely 
less ruinous than the blanks. If good fortune came, it came in such a manner 
that it was almost certain to be abused. After months of starvation and 
despair, a full third night or a well-received dedication filled the pocket of 
the lean, ragged, unwashed poet with guineas. He hastened to onjoy those 
luxuries with the images of which his mind had been haunted while he was 
sleeping amidst the cinders and eating potatoes at the Irish ordinary in Shoe 
Lane. A week of taverns soon qualified him for another year of niglit- 
cellars. Such was the life of Savage, of Boyse, and of a crowd of others. 


Sometimes blazing in gold-laced hats-and waistcoats ; sometimes lying in bed 
because their coats had gone to pieces, or wearing paper cravats because their 
linen was in pawn ; sometimes drinking champagne and tokay with Betty 
Careless ; sometimes standing at the window of an eating-house in Porridge 
Island, to snuff up the scent of what they could not afford to taste ; they knew 
luxury; — they knew beggary; — but they never knew comfort. These men 
were irreclaimable. They looked on a regular and frugal life w«th the same 
aversion which an old gipsy or a Mohawk hunter feels for a stationaiy abode, 
and for the restraint and securities of civilized communities. They were as 
untameable, as much wedded to their desolate freedom, as the wild ass. 
They could no more be broken in to the offices of social man than the unicorn 
could be trained to serve and abide by the crib. It was well if they did 
.not, like beasts of a still fiercer race, tear the hands which ministered to 
their necessities. To assist them was impossible ; and the most benevolent 
of mankind at length became weary of giving relief which was dissipated with 
the wildest profusion as soon as it had been received. If a sum was bestowed 
on the wretched adventurer, such as, properly husbanded, might have sup- 
plied him for six months, it was instantly spent in strange freaks of sensuality, 
and before forty-eight hours had elapsed, the poet was again pestering all his 
acquaintance for twopence to get a plate of shin of beef at a subterraneous 
cookshop. If his friends gave him an asylum in their houses, those houses 
were forthwith turned into bagnios and taverns. All order was destroyed ; 
all business was suspended. The most good-natured host began to repent of 
his eagerness to serve a man of genius in distress when he heard his guest 
roaring for fresh punch at five o'clock in the morning. 

A few eminent writers were more fortunate. Pope had been raised above 
poverty by the active patronage which, in his youth, both the great political 
parties had extended to his Homer. Young had received the only pension 
ever bestowed, to the best of our recollection, by Sir Robert Walpole, as 
the reward of mere literary merit. One or two of the many poets who 
attached themselves to the opposition, Thomson, in particular, and Mallet, 
obtained, after much severe suffering, the means of subsistence from their 
political friends. Richardson, like a man of sense, kept his shop ; and his 
shop kept him, which his novels, admirable as they are, would scarcely have 
done. But nothing could be more deplorable than the state even of the 
ablest men, who at that time depended for subsistence on their writings. 
Johnson, Collins, Fielding, and Thomson, were certainly four of the most 
distinguished persons that England produced during the eighteenth century. 
It is well known that they were all four arrested for debt. 

Into calamities and difficulties such as these Johnson plunged in hi 
twenty-eighth year. From that time till he was three or four and fifty, v..: 
):ave little information respecting him ; little, we mean, compared with the 
full and accurate information which we possess respecting his proceedings 
and habits towards the close of his life. He emerged at length from cock- 
lofts and sixpenny ordinaries into tlie society of the polished and the opulent. 
His fame was established. A pension sufficient for his wants had been con- 
ferred on him : and he came forth to astonish a generation with which he 
had almost as little in common as with Frenchmen or Spaniards, 

In his early years he had occasionally seen the great ; but he had seen 
them as a beggar. He now came among them as a companion. The de- 
mand for amusement and instruction had, during the course of twenty years, 
been gradually increasing. The price of literary labour had risen ; and those 
rising men of letters with whom Johnson was henceforth to associate were, 
for the most part, persons widely different from those who had walked about 


■~-- . — — : 

with hini all night in the streets for want of a lodging. Burke, Robertson, 
the Wartons, Gray, Mason, Gibbon, Adam Smith, Beattie, Sir William 
Jones, Goldsmith, and Churchill were the most distinguished writers of 
what may be called the second generation of the Johnsonian age. Of these 
men Churchill was the only one in whom we can trace the stronger linea- 
ments of that character which, when Johnson first came up to London, was 
common among authors. Of the rest, scarcely any had felt the pressure of 
severe po/erty. All had been early admitted into the most respectable society 
on an equal footing. They were men of quite a different species from the 
dependents of Curll and Osborne. 

Johnson came among them the solitary specimen of a past age, the last 
survivor of the genuine race of Grub Street hacks ; the last of that genera- . 
tion of authors whose abject misery and whose dissolute manners had fur- 
nished inexhaustible matter to the satirical genius of Pope. From nature 
he had received an uncouth figure, a diseased constitution, and an irritable 
temper. The manner in which the earlier years of his manhood had been 
passed had given to his demeanour, and even to his moral character, some 
peculiarities appalling to the civilized beings who were the companions of 
his old age. The perverse irregularity of his hours, the slovenliness of his 
person, his fits of strenuous exertion, interrupted by long intervals of slug- 
gishness, his strange abstinence, and his equally strange voracity, his active 
benevolence, contrasted with the constant rudeness and the occasional fero- 
city of his manners in society, made him, in the opinion of those with whom 
he lived during the last twenty years of his life, a complete original. An 
original he was, undoubtedly, in some respects. But if we possessed full 
information concerning those who shared his early hardships, we should pro- 
bably find that what we call his singularities of manner were for the most 
part failings which he had in common with the class to which he belonged. 
He ate at Streatham Park as he had been used to eat behind the screen at 
St. John's Gate, when he was ashamed to show his ragged clothes. He ate 
as it was natural that a man should eat, who, during a great part of his life, 
had passed the morning in doubt whether he should have food for the after- 
noon. The habits of his early life had accustomed him to bear privation 
with fortitude, but not to taste pleasure with moderation. He could fast ; 
but when he did not fast, he tore his dinner like a famished wolf, with the 
veins swelling on his forehead, and the perspiration running down, his cheeks. 
He scarcely ever took wine. But when he drank it, he drank it greedily 
and in large tumblers. There were, in fact, mitigated symptoms of that 
same moral disease which raged with such deadly malignity in his friends 
Savage and Boyse. The roughness and violence which he showed [in society 
were to be expected from a man whose temper, not naturally gentle, had 
been long tried by the bitterest calamities — by the want of meat, of fire, and 
of clothes, by the importunity of creditors, by the insolence of booksellers, " 
by the derision of fools, by the insincerity of patrons, by that bread which 
is the bitterest of all food, by those stairs which are the most toilsome of 
all paths, by that deferred hope which makes the heart sick. Through all 
these things the ill-dressed, coarse, ungainly pedant had struggled manfully 
up to eminence and command. It was natural that, in the exercise of his 
power, he should be " eo immitior, qui toleraverat," that, though his heart 
was undoubtedly generous and humane, his demeanour in society should be 
harsh and despotic. For severe distress he had sympathy, and not only sym- 
pathy, but munificent relief. But for the suffering which a haish word in* 
flicts upon a delicate mind he had no pity ; for it was a kind of suficring 
which he could scarcely ccnceive. He would carry home on his shouki^i^, *; 


sick and starving girl from the streets. He turned his house into a place fX 
refuge for a crowd of wretched old creatures who could find no other asylum ; 
nor could all their peevishness and ingratitude weary out his benevolence. But 
the pangs of wounded vanity seemed to him ridiculous ; and he scarcely felt 
sufficient compassion even for the pangs of wounded affection. He had seen 
and felt so much of sharp misery that he was not affected by paltry vexations : 
and he seemed to think that everybody ought to be as much hardened to those 
vexations as himself. He was angry with Boswell for complaining of a head- 
ache, — with*Mrs. Thrale for grumbling aboilt the dust on the road, or the 
smell of the kitchen. These were, in his phrase, "foppish lamentations," 
which people ought to be ashamed to utter in a world so full of misery. Gold- 
smith crying because the Good-natured Man had failed inspired him with no 
pity. Though his own health was not good, he detested and despised valetu- 
dinarians. Even great pecuniary losses, unless they reduced the loser abso- 
lutely to beggary, moved him very little. People whose hearts had been 
softened by prosperity might cry, he said, for such events ; but all that could 
be expected of a plain man was not to laugh. 

A person who troubled himself so little about small or sentimental grievances 
of human life was not likely to be very attentive to the feelings of others in 
the ordinary intercourse of society. He could not understand how a sarcasm 
or a reprimand could make any man really unhappy. ** My dear doctor," said 
he to Goldsmith, "what harm do^s it do a man to call him Holofemes?" 
**Pooh, ma'am," he exclaimed to Mrs. Carter, "who is the worse for being 
talked of uncharitably ? " Politeness has been well defined as benevolence in 
small things. Johnson was impolite, not because he wanted benevolence, but 
because small things appeared smaller to him than to people who had never 
known what it was to live for fourpence-halfpenny a day. 

The characteristic peculiarity of his intellect was the union of great powers 
with low prejudices. If we judged of him by the best parts of his mind, we should 
place him almost as high as he was placed by the idolatry of Boswell ; — if by 
the worst parts of his mind, we should place him even below Boswell himself. 
Where he was not under the influence of some strange scruple, or some 
domineering passion, which prevented hira from boldly and fairly investigating 
a subject, he was a wary and acute reasoner, a little too much inclined to 
scepticism, and a little too fond of paradox. No man was less likely to be 
imposed upon by fallacies in argument or by exaggerated statements of fact. 
But if, while he was beating down sophisms and exposing false testimony, 
some childish prejudices, such as would excite laughter in a well managed 
nursery, came across him, he was smitten as if by enchantment. His mind 
dwindled away under the spell from gigantic elevation to dwarfish littleness. 
Those who had lately been admiring its amplitude and its force were now as 
much astonished at its strange narrowness and feebleness as the fisherman in 
the Arabian tale, when he saw the Genie, whose stature had overshadowed 
the whole sea-coast, and whose might seemed equal to a contest with armies, 
contract himself to the dimensions of his small prison, and lie there the help- 
less slave of the charm of Solomon. 

Johnson was in the habit of sifting with extreme severity the evidence for 
all stories which were merely odd. But when they were not only odd but 
miraculous, his severity relaxed. He began to be credulous precisely at the 
point where the most credulous people begin to be sceptical. It is curious to 
observe, both in his writings and in his conversation, the contrast between the 
disdainful manner in which he rejects unauthenticated anecdotes, even when 
they are consistent with the general laws of nature, and the respectful mannef 
in which he mentions the wildest stories relating to the invisible worldt A 


man who told him of a water-spout or a meteoric stone generally had the lie 
direct given him for his pains. A man who told him of a prediction or a dream 
wonderfully accomplished was sure of a courteous hearing. "Johnson," 
observed Hogarth, "like king David, says in his haste that aJ} men are liars.'* 
" His incredulity," says Mrs. Thrale, "amounted almost to disease." She 
tells us how he browbeat a gentleman who gave him an account of a hurricane 
in the West Indies, and a poor Quaker who related some strange circumstance 
about the red-hot balls fired at the siege of Gibraltar. "It is not so. It 
cannot be true. Don't tell that story again. You cannot think how poor a 
figure you make in telling it." He once said, half-jestingly, we suppose, that 
for six months he refused to credit the fact of the earthquake at Lisbon, and 
that he still believed the extent of the calamity to be greatly exaggerated. 
Yet he related with a grave face how old Mr. Cave of St. John's Gate saw a 
ghost, and how this ghost was something of a shadowy being. He went him- 
self on a ghost-hunt to Cock Lane, and was angry with John Wesley for not 
following up another scent of the same kind with proper spirit and perseve- 
rance. He rejects the Celtic genealogies and poems without the least hesita- 
tion ; yet he declares himself willing to believe the stories of the second sight. 
If he had examined the claims of the Highland setfs with half the severity 
with which he sifted the evidence for the genuineness of Fingal, he would, we 
suspect, have come away from Scotland with a mind fully made up. In his 
Lives of the Poets we find that he is unwilling to give credit to the accounts 
of Lord Roscommon's early proficiency in his studies ; but he tells with great 
solemnity an absurd romance about some intelligence pretematurally impressed 
on the mind of that nobleman. He avows himself to be in great doubt about 
che truth of the story, and ends by warning his readers not wholly to slight 
such impressions. 

Many of his sentiments on religious subjects are worthy of a liberal and 
enlarged mind. He could discern clearly enough the folly and meanness of 
all bigotry except his own. When he spoke of the scruples of the Puritans, 
he spoke like a person who had really obtained an insight into the divine 
philosophy of the New Testament, and who considered Christianity as a noble 
scheme of government, tending to promote the happiness and to elevate the 
moral nature of man. The horror which the sectaries felt for cards, Christ- 
mas ale, plum-porridge, mince-pies, and dancing bears, excited his contempt. 
To the arguments urged by some very worthy people against showy dress he 
replied with admirable sense and spirit, "Let us not be found, when our 
Master calls us, stripping the lace off our waistcoats, but the spirit of conten- 
lion from our souls and tongues. Alas I sir, a man who cannot get to heaven 
in a green coat will not find his way thither the sooner in a grey one, " Yet 
he was himself under the tyranny of scruples as unreasonable as those of 
Hudibras or Ralpho, and carried his zeal for ceremonies and for ecclesias- 
tical dignities to lengths altogether inconsistent with reason or with Christian 
charity. He has gravely noted down in his diary that he once committed the 
sin of drinking coffee on Good Friday. In Scotland he thought it his duty 
to pass several months without joining in public worship solely because the 
ministers of the kirk had not been ordained by bishops. His mode of esti- 
mating the piety of his neighbours was somewhat singular. "Campbell," 
said he, " is a good man, — a pious man. I am afraid he has not been in the 
inside of a church for many years ; but he never passes a church without pull- 
ing off his hat: — this shows he has good principles." Spain and Sicily must 
surely contain many pious robbers and well-principled assassins. Johnson 
could easily see that a Roundhead who named all his children after Soldmon's 
gingers, and talked in the House of Commons about seeking the Lord-^ might 


be an unprincipled villain, whose religious mummeries only aggravated his 
guilt. But a man vi^ho took off his hat when he passed a church episcopally 
consecrated must be a good man, a pious man, a man of good principles. 
Johnson could easily see that those persons who looked on a dance or a laced 
waistcoat as sinful deemed most ignobly of the attributes of God and of the 
ends of revelation. But with what a storm of invective he would have over- 
wlielmed any man who had blamed him for celebrating the close of Lent 
Vv'ith sugarless tea and butterless buns ! 

Nobody spoke more contemptuously of the cant of patriotism. Nobody 
saw more clearly the error of those who represented liberty not as a means, 
but as an end, and who proposed to themselves, as the object of their pursuit, 
the prosperity of the state as distinct from the prosperity of the individuals 
who compose the state. His calm and settled opinion seems to have been 
that forms of government have little or no influence on the happiness of 
society. This opinion, erroneous as it is, ought at least to have preserved him 
from all intemperance on political questions. It did not, however, preserve 
him from the lowest, fiercest, and most absurd extravagances of party spirit, — 
from rants which, in everything but' the diction, resembled those of Squire 
Western. He was, as a politician, half ice and half fire. On the side ^o{\ hb 
intellect he was a mere pococurante, — far too apathetic about public affairs, — 
far too sceptical as to the good or evil tendency of any form of polity. His 
passions, on the contrary, were violent even to slaying against all who leaned 
to Whiggish principles. The well-known lines which he inserted in Gold- 
smith's Traveller express what seems to have been his deliberate judgment : 

*• How small, of all that human hearts endure, 
That part which kings or laws can cause or dure ! " 

He had previously put expressions very similar into the mouth of Rasselas. 
It is amusing to contrast these passages with the torrents of raving abuse 
which he poured forth against the Long Parliament and the American Con- 
gress. In one of the conversations reported by Boswell this inconsistency 
displays itself in the most ludicrous manner. 

"Sir Adam Ferguson," says Boswell, "suggested that luxury corrupts a 
people, and destroys the spirit of liberty. Johnson : * Sir, that is all visionary. 
I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government rather 
than another. It is of no moment to the happiness of an individual. Sir, 
the danger of the abuse of power is nothing to a private man. "What French- 
man is prevented passing his life as he pleases?' — Sir Adam : ' But, sir, in 
the British Constitution it is surely of importance to keep up a spirit in the' 
people, so as to preserve a balance against the crov^ar.' — ^Johnson : 'Sir, I 
perceive you are a vile Whig. Why all this childish jealousy of the power 
of the crown ? The crown has not power enough.' " 

One of thex)ld philosophers. Lord Bacon tells us, used to say that life and: 
death were just the same to him. "Why then," said an objector, "do you^ 
not kill yourself?" The philosopher answered, "Because it is just the 
same." If the difference between two forms of government be not wort/ 
half a guinea, it is not easy to see how Whiggism can be viler than Toryism, 
or how the crown can have too little power. If private men suffer nothing 
from political abuses, zeal for liberty is doubtless ridiculous. But zeal for 
monarchy must be equally so. No person could have been more quick 
sighted than Johnson to such a contradiction as this in the logic of an 

The judgments which Johnson passed on books were, in his own time, re- 
garded with superstitious veneration, and, in our time, are generally treated 


with indiscriminate contempt. They are the judgments of a stuTig but 
')ns]aved understanding. The mind of the critic was hedged round by an 
uninterrupted fence of prejudices and superstitions. Within his narrow 
limitSj, he displayed a vigour and an activity which ought to have enabled 
Vim to clear the barrier that confined him. 

How it chanced that a man who reasoned on his premises so ably shoulrl 
assume his premises so foolishly is one of the great mysteries of human 
nature. The same inconsistency may be observed in the schoolmen of the 
middle ages'. Those writers show so much acuteness and force of mind in 
arguing on their wretched data that a modern reader is perpetually at a loss 
to comprehend how such minds came by such da^a. Not a flaw in the super- 
structure of the theory which they are rearing escapes their vigilance. Yet 
they are blind to the obvious unsoundness of the foundation. It is the same 
with some eminent lawyers. Their legal 'arguments are intellectual pro- 
digies, abounding with the happiest analogies and the most refined' distinc- 
tions. The principles of their arbitrary science being once admitted, the 
statute-book and the reports being once assumed as the foundations of juris- 
prudence, these men must be allowed to be perfect masters of logic. But if a 
question arises as to the postulates on which their whole system rests, — if they 
are called upon to vindicate the fundamental maxims ^ of that system which 
they have passed their lives in studying, these very men often talk the lan- 
guage of savages or of children. Those who have listened to a man of this 
class in his own court, and who have witnessed the skill with which he 
analyses and digests a vast -inass of evidence, or reconciles a crowd of pre- 
cedents which at . first sight seem contradictory, scarcely know him again 
when, a few hours later, they hear him speaking on' the other side of West- 
minster Hall in his capacity of legislator. They can scarcely believe that 
the; paltry quirks which aire faintly heard through a storm of coughing, and 
which cannot impose on the plainest country gentleman, can proceed from 
the same shay'p and vigorous intellect which had excited their admiration 
under the same roof, and on the same day. 

Johnson decided literary questions like a lawyer, not like a legislator. He 
never examined foundations where a point was already ruled. His whole 
code of criticism rested on pure assumption, for which he sometimes quoted 
a precedent or an authority, but rarely troubled himself to give a reason drawn 
from the nature of things. He took it for granted that the kind of poetry 
which flourished in his own time, which he had been accustomed to hear 
praised from his childhood, and which he had himself written with success, 
was the best kind of poetry. In his biographical work he has repeatedly 
laid it down ^s an undeniable proposition that during the latter part of the 
seventeenth century, and the earlier part of the eighteenth, English poetry 
had been in a constant progress of improvement. Waller, Denham, Diydcn, 
and Pope, had been, according to him, the great reformers. He judged o( 
all works^ of the imagination by the standard established among his own 
contemporaries. Though he allowed Homer to have been a greater man 
than Virgil, he seems to have thought the ^neid a greater poem than tiro 
Iliad. Indeed, he well might have thought so ; for he preferred Pope's Iliad 
to Hpmer's. He pronounced that, after 1 look's translation of Tasso, Fairfax's 
would hardly be reprinted. He could see no merit in our fine old English 
ballads, and always spoke with the most provoking contempt of Percy's 
fondness for them. Of all the great original works which appeared during 
his time, Richardson's novels alone excited his admiration. He could see 
liltle or no merit in Tom Jones, in Gulliver's Travels, or in Tristram Shandy. 
To Thomson's Castle of Indolence he vouchsafed only a line of cold com* 


mendation, — of commendation much colder than what he has bestowed on the 
creation of that portentous bore, Sir Richard Blackmore. Gray was, in his 
dialect, a barren rascal. Churchill was a blockhead. The contempt which 
he felt for the trash of Macpherson was, indeed, just ; but it was, we suspect, 
just by chance. He despised the Fingal for the very reason which led many 
men of genius to admire it. He despised it, not because it was essentially 
commonplace, but because it had a superficial air of originality. 

He was undoubtedly an excellent judge of compositions fashioned on his 
own principles. But when a deeper philosophy was required, — when he 
imdertook to pronounce judgment on the works of those great minds which 
"yield homage only to eternal laws,*' — his failure was ignominious. He criti- 
cised Pope's epitaphs excellently. But his observations on Shakespeare's 
plays and Milton's poems seem to us for the most part as wretched as if they 
had been written by Rymer himself, whom we take to have been the worst 
critic that ever lived. 

Some of Johnson's whims on literary subjects can be compared only to that 
strange nervous feeling which made him uneasy if he had not touched every 
post between the Mitre tavern and his own lodgings. His preference of Latin 
epitaphs to English epitaphs is an instance. An English epitaph, he said, 
would disgrace Smollett He declared that he would not pollute the walls of 
Westminster Abbey with an English epitaph on Goldsmith. What reason 
there can be for celebrating a British writer in Latin, which there was not for 
covering the Roman arches of triumph with Greek inscriptions, or for com- 
memorating the deeds of the heroes of Thermopylae in Egyptian hieroglyphics, 
we are utterly unable to imagine. 

On men and manners, — at least on the men and manners of a particular 
place and a particular age, — ^Johnson had certainly looked with a most obser- 
vant and discriminating eye. His remarks on the education of children, on 
marriage, on the economy of families, on the rules of society, are always 
striking, and generally sound. In his writings, indeed, the knowledge of life 
which he possessed in an eminent degree is very imperfectly exhibited. Like 
those unfortunate chiefs of the middle ages who were suffocated by their own 
chain-mail and cloth of 'gold, his maxims perish under that load of words 
which was designed for their ornament and their defence. But it is clear from 
the remains of his conversations, that he had more of that homely wisdom 
which nothing but experience and observation can give than any writer 
since the time of Swift. If he had been content to write as he talked, he 
might have left books on the practical art of living superior to the Directions to 

Yet even his remarks on society, like his remarks on literature, indicate 
a mind at least as remarkable for narrowness as for strength. He was no 
master of the great science of human nature. He had studied, not the genus 
man, but the species Londoner. Nobody was ever so thoroughly conver- 
sant with all the forms of life and all the shades of moral and intellectual 
character which were to be seen from Islington to the Thames, and from 
Hyde-Park comer to Mile-end green. But his philosophy stopped at the 
first turnpike-gate. Of the rural life of England he knew nothing' ; and he 
took it for granted that every body who lived in the country Was either stupid 
or miserable. ** Country gentlemen," said he, "must be unhappy ; for they 
have not enough to keep their lives in motion ; " — as if all those peculiar 
habits and associations which made Fleet Street and Charing Cross the finest 
views in the world to himself had been essential parts of human nature. 01 
remote countiies and past times he talked with wild and ignorant presump- 
tion. "The Athenians of the age of Demosthenes," he said to Mrs. Thralcii 


" were a people of brutes, a barbarous people." In conversation with Sir 
Adam Ferguson lie used similar language. "The boasted Athenians," he 
said, "were barbarians. The mass of every people must be barbarous where 
there is no printing." The fact was this : he saw that a Londoner who could 
not read, was a very stupid and brutal fellow : he saw that great refinement 
of taste and activity of intellect were rarely found in a Londoner v.'ho had 
not read much ; and, because it was by means of books that people acquired 
almost all their knowledge in the society with which he was acquainted, he 
concluded, in defiance of the strongest and clearest evidence, that the human 
mind can be cultivated by means of books alone. An Athenian citizen 
might possess very few volumes; and the largest library to which he had 
access might be much less valuable than Johnson's bookcase in Bolt Court. 
But the Athenian might pass every morning in conversation with Socrates, 
and might hear Pericles speak four or five times every month. Pie saw the 
plays of Sophocles and Aristophanes : — he walked p^midst the friezes o% 
Phidias and the paintings of Zeuxis : — he knew by heart the choruses ot 
^schylus : — he heard the rhapsodist at the corner of the street reciting the 
Shield of Achilles or the Death of Argus : — he was a legislator conversant with 
high questions.of alliance, revenue, and war : — he was a soldier trained under 
a liberal and generous discipline : — he was a judge, compelled every day to 
weigh the effect of opposite arguments. These thin;^s were in themselves an 
education, — an education eminently fitted, not, indeed, to form exact or pro- 
found thinkers, but to give quickness to the perceptions, delicacy to the taste, 
fluency to the expression, and politeness to the manners. All this was over- 
looked. An Athenian who did not improve his mind by reading was, in 
Johnson's opinion, much such a person as a Cockney who made his mark,-7- 
much such a person as black Frank before he went to school, ai 1 far inferior 
to a parish clerk or a printer's devil. 

Johnson's friends have allowed that he carried to a ridiculous extreme his 
unjust contempt for foreigners. He pronounced the French to be a very silly 
people, — much behind us, — stupid, ignorant creatures. And this judgment 
he formed after having been at Paris about a month, 'during which he would 
not talk French for fear of giving the natives an advantage over him in con- 
versation. He pronounced them, also, to be an indelicate people, because a 
French footman touched the sugar with his fingers. That ingenious and 
amusing traveller, M. Simond, has defended his countrymen very success- 
fully against Johnson's accusation, and has pointed out some English practices 
which, to an impartial spectator, would seem at least as inconsistent with 
physical cleanliness and social decorum as those which Johnson so bitterly 
reprehended. To the sage, as BoswcU loves to call him, it never occurred 
to doubt that there must be something eternally and immutably good in the 
usages to which he had been accustomed. In fact, Johnson s remarks on 
society beyond the bills of mortality are generally of much the same kind 
with those of honest Tom Dawson, the English footman in Dr. Moore's 
Zeluco. "Suppose the king of France has no sons, but only a daughter, then, 
when the king dies, this here daughter, according to that there law, cannot 
be made queen, but the next near relative, provided he is a man, is made 
king, and not the last king*s daughter, which, to be sure, is very unjust. 
The French footguards are dressed in blue, and all the marching regiments 
in white, which has a very foolish appearance for soldiers ; and as for blue 
regimentals, it is only fit for the blue horse or the artillery." 

Johnson's visit to the Hebrides introduced him to a state of society com- 
pletely new to him ; and a salutary suspicion of his own deficiencies secn\» 

on thai occasion to have ciQibcd hi;j ni^ad for the first time, lie V'-'iifc,'stdf 
... • ^ 


in the last paragraph of his Journey, that his thoughts on national manner* 
were the thoughts of one who had seen but little, — of one who had passed his 
lime almost wholly in cities. This feeling, however, soon passed away. It 
is remarkable that to the last he entertained a fixed contempt for all those 
modes of life and those studies which lead to emancipate the mind from the 
prejudices of a* particular age or a particular nation. Of fc reign travel and 
of history he spoke with the fierce and boisterous contempt of ignorance. 
" What does a man learn by travelling? Is Beauclerk the letter for travel- 
ling? What did Lord Charlemont learn in his travels, except that there was 
a snake in one of the pyramids of Egypt ? " History was, in his opinion, to 
use the fine expression of Lord Plunkett, an old almanack : historians could, 
as he conceived, claim no higher dignity than that of almanack-makers ; and 
his favourite historians were those who, like Lord Hailes, aspired to no higher 
dignity. He always spoke with contempt of Robertson. Hume he would 
not even read. He affronted one of his friends for talking to him about 
Catiline's conspiracy, and declared that he never desired to hear of the Punic 
war again as long as he lived. 

Assuredly one fact which does not directly affect our own interests, con- 
sidered in itself, is not better worth knowing than another fact. The fact 
that there is a snake in a pyramid, or the fact that Hannibal crossed the 
Alps by the great St. Bernard, are in themselves as unprofitable to us as the 
fact that there is a green blind in a particular house in Threadneedle Street, 
or the fact that a M r. Smith comes into the city every morning on the top of 
one of the Blackwall stages. But it is certain that those who will not crack 
the shell of history will not get at the kernel. Johnson, with hasty arrogance, 
pronounced the kernel worthless, because he saw no value in the shell. The 
real use of travelling to distant countries and of studying the armals of past 
times is to preserve men from the contraction of mind which those can hardly 
escape whose whole communion is with one generation and one neighbourhood, 
who arrive at conclusions by means of an induction not sufiiciently copious, 
and who, therefore, constantly confound exceptions with rules, and accidents 
with essential properties. In short, the real use of travelling and of studying 
history is to keep men from being what Tom Dawson was in fiction, and 
Samuel Johnson in reality. 

Johnson, as Mr. Burke most justly observed, appears far greater in Bos- 
well's books than in his own. His conversation appears to have been quite 
equal to his writings in matter, and far superior to them in manner. When 
he talked, he clothed his wit and his sense in forcible and natural expressions. 
As soon as he took his pen in his hand to write for the public, his style became 
systematically vicious. All his books are written in a learned language, in a 
language — which nobody hears from his mother or his nurse, — in a language 
in which nobody ever quanels, or drives bargains, or makes love, — in a lan- 
guage in which nobody ever thinks. It is clear that Johnson himself did not 
think in the dialect in which he wrote. The expressions which came first to 
his tongue were simple, energetic, and picturesque. When he wrote for pub- 
lication, he did his sentences out of English into Johnsonese. His letters from 
the Hebrides to Mrs. Thrale are the original of that work of which the Jour- 
ney to the Hebrides is the translation ; and it is amusing to compare the two 
versions. ** When we were taken upstairs," says he in one of his letters, "a 
dirty fellow bounced out of the bed in which one of us was to lie." This 
incident is recorded in the Journey as follows : "Out of one of the beds on 
which we were to repose started up, at our entrance, a man black as a 
Cyclops from the forge." Sometimes Johnson translated aloud. *• The 
TRcheaarSfcl,** h« said'^ viery unjustly, "has not wit enm?gh to k?^ ft swtdtj*^ 


> H i 1 1 II I i ■ ■ ■ — ■" ' 

then, after a pause, "it has not vitality enough to preserve it from putre- 
faction. " 

Mannerism is pardonable, and is sometimes even agreeable, when the 
manner, though vicious, is natural. Few readers, for example, would be 
willing to part with the mannerism of Milton or of Burke. But a mannerism 
which does not sit easy on the mannerist, which has been adopted on prin- 
ciple, and which can be sustained only by constant effort, is always offensive. 
And such is the mannerism of Johnson. 

The characteristic faults of his style are so familiar to all our readers, and 
have been so often burlesqued, that it is almost superfluous to point them out. 
It is well known that he made less use than any other eminent writci of those 
strong, plain words, Anglo-Saxon or Norman-French, of which the roots lie . 
in the inmost depths of our language : and that he felt a vicious partiality for 
terms which, long after our own speech had been fixed, were borrowed from 
the Greek and Latin, and which, therefore, even when lawfully naturalised, 
must be considered as born aliens, not entitled to rank with the king's 
English. His constant practice of padding out a sentence with useless epithets, 
till it became as stiff as the bust of an exquisite, — his antithetical forms of ex- 
pression, constantly employed even where there is no opposition in the ideas 
expressed, — his big words wasted on little things, — his harsh inversions, so 
widely different from those graceful and easy inversions which give variety, 
spirit, and sweetness to the expression of our great old writers, — all these 
peculiarities have been imitated by his admirers, and parodied by his assailants, 
till the public has become sick of the subject. 

Goldsmith said to him, very wittily and very justly, ** If you were to write a 
fable about little fishes, doctor, you would make the little fishes talk like 
whales. " No man surely ever had so little talent for personation as Johnson. 
Whether he wrote in the character of a disappointed legacy-hunter or an 
empty town fop, of a crazy virtuoso or a flippant coquette, he wrote in the 
same pompous and unbending style. His speech, like Sir Piercy Shafton's 
euphuistic eloquence, betrayed him under every disguise. Euphelia and Rho- 
doclea talk as finely as Imlac the poet, or Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia. The 
gay Cornelia describes her reception at the country-house of her relations in 
such terms as these : — "I was surprised, after the civilities of my first recep- 
tion, to find, instead of the leisure and tranquillity which a rural life always 
promises, and, if well-conducted, always affords, a confused wildness of care, 
and a tumultuous hurry of diligence, by which every face was clouded, and. 
every motion agitated." The gentle Tranquilla informs us that she "had 
not passed the earlier part of life without the flattery of courtship, and the 
joys of triumph ; but had danced the round of gaiety amidst the murmurs of 
envy and the gratulations of applause, — had been attended from pleasure to 
pleasure by the great, the sprightly, and the vain, and had seen her regard soli- 
cited by the obsequiousness of gallantry, the gaiety of wit, and the timidity of 
love." Surely Sir John Falstaff himself did not wear his petticoats with a 
worse grace. The reader may well cry out, with honest Sir Hugh Evans, 
" I like not when a 'oman has a great peard j I spy a great peard under her 

We had something more to say. But our article is already too long ; and 
we must close it. We would fain part in good humour from the hero, from 
the biograi)her, and even from the editor, who, ill as he has perfoimed his 
task, has at least this claim to our gratitude, that he has induced us to read 
Boswell's book again. As we close it the club-room is before us, and tlic 
table on which stand the omelet for Nugent, and the lemons for Johnson. 
There are assembled those head<» which live for ever on the canvas of RcT* 

196 S0lf7HMY'S ED/T/OI^ OP 

. . ■ - .. , -v:^^ 

nolds. There are the spectacles of Burke and tlie tall, . thin form of Larigtotl, 
the courtly sneer of Beaucleik, and the beaming smiie of Garrick, Gibbon tap. 
ping his snuff-box and Sir Joshua with his trumpet in liis ear. In the fore- 
l^round is that strange figure which is as familiar to us as the figures of those 
among whom we have been brought up, — the gigantic body, the huge, 
massy face, seamed with the scars of disease, the brown coat, the black 
worsted stockings, the grey wig with the scorched foretop, the dirty Iiands, 
the nails bitten and pared to the quick. We see the eyes and mouth movin; 
with convulsive twitches ; we see the heavy form rolling ; we hear it puffing.; 
and then comes the " Why, sir!" and the " What then, sir?" and the "No, 
sir !" and the "You don't see your way through the question, sir !'* 

What a singular destiny has been that of this remarkable man ! To be 
regarded in his own age as a classic, and in -ours as a companion ! — To receive 
from his contemporaries that full homage which men of genius have in general 
received only from posterity ! — To be more intimately known to posterity 
than other men are known to their contemporaries ! That kind of fame 
which is commonly the most transient is, in his case, the most durable. The 
reputation of those writings, which he probably expected to be immortal, is 
every day fading ; while those peculiarities of manner and that careless table- 
talk, the memory of which he probably thought would die with him, are 
likely to be remembered as long as the English language is spoken in any 
quarter of the globe. 


The Pilgrim's Progress, with a Life of John Bunyan. By Robert Southey, Esq., LL.D. 
Poet-Laureate. Illustrated with Engravings. 8vo. London. 1830. 

This is an eminently beautiful and splendid edition of a book which well 
deserves all that the printer and the engraver can do for it. Tlie Life of 
Bunyan is, of course, not a performance which can add much to the literary 
reputation of such a writer as Mr. Southey. But it is written in excellent 
English, and, for the most part, in an excellent spirit. Mr. Southey pro- 
pounds, we need not say, many opinions from which we altogether dissent ; 
md his attempts to excuse the odious persecution to which Bunyan was 
subjected have sometimes moved our indignation. But we will avoid this 
topic. We are at present much more inclined to join in paying homage to 
the genius of a great man than to engage in a controversy concerning Church 
government and toleration. 

We must not pass without notice the engravings with which this volume 
is decorated. Some of Mr. Heath's woodcuts are admirably designed and 
ejcecuted. Mr. Martin's illustrations do not please us quite so well. Plis 
Valley of the Shadow of Death is not that Valley of the Shadow of Death 
which Bunyan imagined. At all events, it is not that dark and horrible 
glen which has from childhood been in our mind's eye. The valley is a 
cavern : the quagmire is a lake : the straight path runs zigzag : and Christian 
appears like a speck in the darkness of the immense vault. We miss, too, 
those hideous forms which make so striking a part of the description of 
Bunyan, and which Salvator Rosa would have loved to draw. It is with 
unfeigned diffidence that we pronounce judgment on any question relating^ 
to the art of painting. But it appears to us that Mr. Martin has not of late 
been fortunate in his choice of subjects. He should never have attempted 
to illustrate the Paradise Lost. There can be no two manners more directly 


. rf~r - I I r- 1 . ■ ■ ,- .■■ :v 

©pposed to each other than the manner of his painting and the manner of 
Milton's poetry. Those things which are mere accessaries in the descrip- 
tions become the principal objects in the pictures ; and those figures which 
are most prominent in the descriptions can be detected in the pictures only 
by a veiy close scrutiny. Mr. Martin has succeeded perfectly in representing 
the pillars and candelabras of Pandemonium. But he has forgotten that 
Milton's Pandemonium is merely the background to Satan. In the picture, 
the Archangel. is scarcely visible amidst the endless colonnades of his Infernal 
palace. Milton's Paradise, again, is merely the background to his Adam 
and Eve. But in Mr. Martin's picture the landscape is everything. Adam, 
Eve, and Raphael, attract much less notice than the lake and the mountains, 
the gigantic flowers, and the giraffes which feed upon them. We read that 
James II. sat to Verelst, the great flower-painter. When the perform- 
ance was finished, his majesty appeared in the midst of a bower of sun- 
flowers and tulips, which completely drew away all attention from the 
central figure. All who looked at the portrait took it for a flower-piece. 
Mr. Martin, we think, introduces his immeasurable spaces, his innumerable 
multitudes, his gorgeous prodigies of architecture and landscape, almost as 
unseasonably as Verelst introduced his flower-pots and nosegays. If Mr. 
Martin were to paint Lear in the storm, we suspect that the blazing sky, the 
sheets of rain, the swollen torrents, and the tossing forest would draw away 
all attention from the agonies of the insulted king and father. If he were 
to paint the death of Lear, the old man asking the by-standers to undo 
his button, would be thrown into the shade by a vast blaze of pavilions, 
standards, .armour, and heralds' coats. Mr. Martin would illustrate the 
Orlando Furioso well, — the Orlando Innamorato still better, — the Arabian 
Nights best of all. Fairy palaces and gardens, porticos of agate, and groves 
flowering with emeralds and rubies, — inhabited by people for whom nobody 
cares, — these are his proper domain.*" He would succeed admirably in the 
enchanted ground of Alcina, or the mansion of Aladdin. But he should 
avoid Milton and Bunyan. 

The characteristic peculiarity of the Pilgrim's Progress is that it is the only 
work of its kind which possesses a strong human interest. * Other allegories 
only amuse the fancy. The allegory of Bunyan has been read by many 
thousands with tears. There are some good allegories in Johnson's works, 
and some of still higher merit by Addison. In these performances there is, 
perhaps, as much wit and ingenuity as in the Pilgrim's Progress. But the 
pleasure which is produced by the Vision of Mirza, the Vision of Theodore, 
the genealogy of Wit, or the contest between Rest and Labour, is exactly 
similar to the pleasure which we derive from one of Cowley's odes or from 
a canto of Hudibras. It is a pleasure which belongs wholly to the under- 
standing, and in which the feelings have no part whatever. Nay, even 
Spensfer himself, though assuredly one of the greatest poets that ever lived, 
could not succeed in the attempt to make allegory interesting. It was in 
vain that he lavished the riches of his mind on the House of Pride and the 
House of Temperance. One unpardonable fault, the fault of tediousness, 
pervades the whole of the Fairy Queen. Wc become sick of Cardinal Virtues 
and Deadly Sins, and long for the society of plain men and women. Of the 
persons who read the first canto, not one in ten reaches the end of the first 
book, aiid not one in a hundred perseveres to the end of the poem. Very 
few and very weary are those who are in at the death of the Blatant Beast. 
If the last six books, which arc said to have been destroyed in Ireland, Ivid 
been preserved, we doubt whether any heart less stout than that of a com« 
mentatf r would have held out to the end. 


It is not so with the Pilgrim's Progress. That wonderful book, while it 
obtains admiration from the most fastidious critics, is loved by those who are 
/oo simple to admire it. Dr. Johnson, all whose studies were desultory, and 
who hated, as he said, to read books through, made an exception in favour 
of the Pilgrim's Progress. That work, he said, was one of the two or three 
works which he wished longer. It was by no common merit that the illiterate 
sectary extracted praise like thi^ from the most pedantic of critics and the most 
bigoted of Tories. In the wildest parts of Scotland the Pilgrim's Progress is 
the delight of the peasantry. In every nursery the Pilgrim's Progress is a 
greater favourite than Jack the Giant-killer. Eveiy reader knows the straight 
and narrow path as well as he knows a road in which he has gone backward 
and forward a hundred times. This is the highest miracle of genius, — that 
things which are not should be as though they were, — that the imaginations 
of one mind should become the personal recollections of another. And this 
miracle the tinker has wrought. There is no ascent, no declivity, no resting- 
place, no turn-stile, with which we are not perfectly acquainted. The wicket 
gate, and the desolate swamp which separates it from the City of Destruction, 
— the long line of road, as straight as a rule can make it, — the Interpreter's 
house, and all its fair shows, — the prisoner in the iron cage, — the palace, at 
the doors of which armed men kept guard, and on the battlements of which 
walked persons clothed all in gold, — the cross and the sepulch'-e, — the steep 
hill and the pleasant arbour, — the stately front of the House Beautiful by the 
wayside, — the low, green valley of Humiliation, rich with grass and covered 
with flocks, — all ar- as well known to us as the sights of our own street. 
Then we come to the narrow place where Apollyon strode^ right across the 
whole breadth of the way, to stop the journey of Christian,*and where after- 
wards the pillar was set up to testify how bravely the pilgrim had fought the 
good fight. As we advance, the valley becomes deeper and deeper. The 
shade of the precipices on both sides falls blacker and blacker. The clouds 
gather overhead. Doleful voices, the clanking of chains, and the rushing of 
many feet to and fro, are heard through the darkness. The way, hardly dis- 
cernible in gloom, runs close by the mouth of the burning pit, which sends 
forth its flames, its noisome smoke, and its hideous shapes, to terrify the 
adventurer. Thence he goes on, amidst the snares and pitfalls, with the 
mangled bodies of those who have perished lying in the ditch by his side. At 
the end of the long, dark valley he passes the dens in which the old giants 
dwelt, amidst the bones of those whom they had slain. 

Then the road passes straight on through a waste moor, till at length the 
towers of a distant city appear before the traveller ; and soon he is in the 
midst of the innumerable multitudes of Vanity Fair. There are the jugglers 
and the apes, the shops and the puppet-shows. There are Italian Row, and 
French Row, and Spanish Row, and British Row, with their crowds of 
buyers, sellers, and loungers, jabbering all the languages of the earth. 

Thence we go on by the little hill of the silver mine, and through the 
meadow of lilies, along the bank of that pleasant river which is bordered on 
both sides by fruit-trees. On the left side branches off the path leading to 
the Horrible Castle, the court-yard of which is paved with the skulls of 
pilgri .ns ; and right onward are the sheepfolds and orchards of the Delectable 

From the Delectable Mountains, the way lies through the fogs and briers of 
the Enctanted Ground, with here and there a bed of soft cushions spread 
under a green arbour. And beyond is the land of Beulah, where the flowers, 
the grapes, and the songs of birds never cease, and where the sun shines 
night and day. Thence are plainly seen the golden pavements and streets 


of pearl, on the other side of that black and cold river over which there is no 

All the stages of the journey, — all the forms which cross or overtake the 
pilgrims, — giants, and hobgoblins, ill-favoured ones and shining ones, — the 
tall, comely, swarthy Madam Bubble, with her great purse by her side, and 
her fingers playing with the money, — the black man in the bright vesture,' 
Mr. Worldly Wiseman and my Lord Haiegood, — Mr. Talkative and Mrs.' 
Timorous, — all are actually existing beings to us. We follow the travellers 
through their allegorical progress with interest not inferior to that with which 
we follow Elizabeth from Siberia to Moscow, or Jeanie Deans from Edinburgh 
to London. Bunyan is almost the only writer who ever gave to the abstract 
the interest of the concrete. In the works of many celebrated authors, men 
are mere personifications. We have not an Othello, but jealousy, not an 
lago, but perfidy, not a Brutus, but patriotism. The rtiind of Bunyan, on the 
contrary, was so imaginative that personifications, when he dealt with them, 
became men. A dialogue between two qualities, in his dream, has more 
iramatic effect than a dialogue between two human beings in most plays. In 
this respect the genius of Bunyan bore a great resemblance to that of a man 
who had very little else in common with him, Percy Bysshe Shelley. The 
strong imagination of Shelley made him an idolator in his own despite. Out 
of the most indefinite terms of a hard, cold, dark metaphysical system, he 
made a gorgeous Pantheon, full of beautiful, majestic, and life-like forms. 
He turned atheism itself into a mythology, rich with visionf. as glorious as 
the gods that live in the marble of Phidias, or the virgin saints that smile on 
us from the canvas of Murillo. The Spirit of Beauty, the Principle of Good, 
the Principle of Evil, when he treated of them, ceased to be abstractions. 
They took shape and colour. They were no longer mere words ; but *' intel- 
ligible forms," **fair humanities," objects of love, of adoration, or of fear. 
As there can be no stronger sign of a mind destitute of the poetical faculty 
than that tendency which was so common among the writers of the French 
school to turn images into abstractions — Venus, for example, into Love, 
Minerva into Wisdom, Mars into War, and Bacchus into Festivity, — so there 
can be no stronger sign of a mind truly poetical than a disposition to reverse 
tliis abstracting process, and to make individuals out of generalities. Some 
of the metaphysical and ethical theories of Shelley were certainly most absurd 
and pernicious. But we doubt whether any modern poet has possessed in an 
equal degree some of the highest qualities of the great ancient masters. The 
words bard and inspiration, which seem so cold and affected when applied to 
other modern writers, have a perfect propriety when applied to him. He was 
not an author, but a bard. His poetry seems not to have been an art, but an 
inspiration. Had he lived to the full age of man, he might not improbably 
have given to the world some great work of the very highest rank in design 
and execution. But, alas ! 

6 Aa^wit ^Pa p6ov' ^K\v<Te iiva 
TOW Muaait ^iXov avdpa, toy ou Jivfx<j)aiartv cnrex^^- 

But we must return to Bunyan. The Pilgrim's Progress undoubtedly is 
not a perfect alk-gory. The types are often inconsistent with each other ; and 
sometimes the allegorical disguise is altogether thrown off. The river, for 
example, is emblematic of death ; and we are told that every human being 
must pass through the river. But Faithful does not pass through it. He is 
martyred, not in shadow, but in reality, at Vanity Fair. Hopeful talks to 
Christian about Esau's birthright and about his own convictions of sin as 
Btmyan might have talktsfd with cmfe of hie ctwn cORgregtvti<?ir. Th'e damstls 


at the House Beautiful catechize Christiana's boys, as any good ladies might 
catechize any boys at a Sunday School. But we do not believe that any man, 
whatever might be his genius, and virhatever his good luck, could long con- 
tinue a figurative history without falling into many inconsistencies. We are 
sure that inconsistencies, scarcely less gross than the worst into which Bun- 
yan has fallen, may be found in the shortest and most elaborate allegories of 
the Spectator and the Rambler. The Tale of a Tub and the History of John 
Bull swarm with similar errors, — if the name of error can be properly applied 
to that which is unavoidable. It is not easy to make a simile go on all-fours. 
But we believe that no human ingenuity could produce such a centipede as 
a long allegory in v/hich the correspondence between the outward sign and 
the thing signified should be exactly preserved. Certainly no writer, ancient 
oV modern, has yet achieved the adventure. The best thing, on the whole, 
that an allegorist can c!b, is to present to his readers a succession of analogies, 
each of which may separately be striking and happy, without looking very 
nicely to see whether they harmonize with each other. This Bunyan has 
done ; and, though a minute scrutiny may detect inconsistencies in every 
page of his tale, the general effect which the tale produces on all persons, 
learned and unlearned, proves that he has done well. The passages which it is 
most difficult to defend are those in which he altogether drops the allegory, 
and puts in the mouth of his pilgrims religious ejaculations and disquisitions 
better suited to his own pulpit at Bedford or Reading than to the Enchanted 
Ground or to the Interpreter's Garden. Yet even these passages, though we 
will not undertake to defend them against the objections of critics, we feel 
that we could ill spare. We feel that the story owes much of its charm to 
these occasional glimpses of solemn and affecting subjects, which will not be 
hidden, which force themselves through the veil, and appear before us in their 
native aspect. The effect is not unlike that which is said to have been pro- 
duced on the ancient stage, when the eyes of the actor were seen flaming 
through his mask, and giving life and expression to what would else have been 
an inanimate and uninteresting disguise. 

It is very amusing and very instructive to compare the Pilgrim's Progress 
with the Grace Abounding. The latter work is, indeed, one of the most 
remarkable pieces of autobiography in the world. It is a full and open con- 
fession of the fancies which passed through the mind of an illiterate man, 
whose affections were warm, whose nerves were irritable, whose imagination 
was ungovernable, and who was under the influence of the strongest religious 
excitement. In whatever age Bunyan had lived the history of his feelings 
would, in all probability, have been very curious. But the time in which his 
lot was cast was the time of a great stirring of the human mind. A tremendous 
burst of public feeling, produced by the tyranny of the hierarchy, menaced the 
old ecclesiastical institutions with destruction. To the gloomy regularity of 
one intolerant Church had succeeded the licence of innumerable sects, drunk 
with the sweet and heady must of their new liberty. Fanaticism, engendered 
by persecution, and destined to engender fresh persecution in turn, spread 
rapidly through society. Even the strongest and most commanding mind? 
were not proof against this strange taint. Any time might have produced 
George Fox and James Naylor. But to one lime alone belong the frantic 
delusions of such a statesman as Vane, and the hysterical tears of such a 
soldier as Cromwell. ^ 

The history of Bunyan is the history of a most exitable mind in an age of 
excitement. By most of his biographers he has been treated with gross 
injustice. They have understood in a popular sense all those strong terms of 
self-condemnation which he employed in a theological sense. They have, 


therefore, represented him as an abandoned wretch, reclaimed by means 
almost miraculous ; — or, to use their favourite metaphor, * * as a brand plucked 
from the burning." Mr. Ivimey calls him the depraved Bunyan and the 
wicked tinker of Elstow. Surely Mr. Ivimey ought to have been too familiar 
with the bitter accusations which the most pious people are in the habit of 
bringing against themselves, to understand literally all the strong expressions 
which are to be found in the Grace Abounding. It is quite clear, as Mr. 
Southey most j'ustly remarks, that Bunyan never was a vicious man. He 
married very early ; and he solemnly declares that he was strictly faithful to 
his wife. He does not appear to have been a drunkard. He owns, indeed, 
that when a boy he never spoke without an oath. But a single admonition 
cured him of this bad habit for life ; and the cure must have been wrought 
early; for at eighteen he was in the army of the Parliament;, and, if he had 
carried the vice of profaneness into that service, he v/ould doubtless have 
received something more than an admonition from Serjeant Bind-their-kings- 
in-chains, or Captain Hew-Agag-in-pieces-before-the-Lord. Bell-ringing and 
playing at hockey on Sundays seem to have been the worst vices of this 
depraved tinker. They would have passed for virtues with Archbishop Laud. 
It is quite clear that, from a very early age, Bunyan was a man of a strict life 
and of a tendei conscience. *'He had been," says Mr. Southey, "a black- 
guard." Even this, we think, too hard a censure. Bunyan was not, we 
admit, so fine a gentleman as Lord Digby; but he was a blackguard no 
otherwise than as eveiy labouring man that ever lived has been a blackguard. 
Indeed, Mr. Southey acknowledges this. *' Such he might have been expected 
to be by his Dirth, breeding, and vocation. Scarcely, indeed, by possibility, 
could he have been otherwise." A man Avhose manners and sentiments are 
decidedly below those of his class deserves to be called a blackguard. But it is 
surely unfair to apply so strong a word of reproach to one who is only what 
the great mass of every community must inevitably be. 

Those horrible internal conflicts which Bunyan has described with so much 
power of language prove, not that he was a worse man than his neighboui's, 
but that his mind was constantly occupied by religious considerations, — that 
his fervour exceeded his knowledge, — and that his imagination exercised 
despotic power over his body and mind. He heard voices from heaven ; he 
saw strange visions of distant lulls, pleasant and sunny as his own Delectable 
Mountains : from those abodes he was shut out, and placed in a dark and 
horrible wilderness, where he wandered through ice and snow, striving to 
make his way into the happy region of light. At one time he was seized with 
an inclination to work miracles. At another time he thought himself actually 
possessed by the devil. He could distinguish the blasphemous whispers. He 
felt his infernal enemy pulling at his clothes behind him. He spurned with 
his feet and struck with his hands at the destroyer. Sometimes he was tempted 
to sell his part in the salvation of mankind. Sometimes a violent impulse 
urged him to start up from his food, to fall on his knees, and to break forth 
into prayer. At length he fancied that he had committed the unpardonable 
sin. His agony convulsed his robust frame. He was, he says, as if his breast 
bone would split ; and this he took for a sign that he was destined to burst 
*sundcr like Judas. The agitation of his nerves made all his movements 
tremulous; and this trembling, he supposed, was a visible mark of his repro- 
bation, like that which had been set on Cain. At one time, indeed, an 
encouraging voice seemed to rush hi at the window, like the noise of wind, 
but very pleasant, and commanded, as he says, a great calm in his soul. At 
another time, a word of comfort ** was spoke loud unto him ;" — it showed "a 
great word; — it seemed to be writ in great letters." But these intervals of 


case were short. His state, during two years and a half, was generally the 
most horrible that the human mind can imagine. " I walked," says he. with 
his own peculiar eloquence, *'to a neighbouring town, and sat down upon a 
settle in the street, and fell into a very deep pause about the most fearful state 
my sin had brought me to; and, after long musing, I lifted ur> my head ; but 
methought I saw as if the sun t<iat shineth in the heavens d'A grudge to give 
me light ; and as if the very stones in the street, and tiles upon the houses, 
did band themselves against me. Methought that they all combined together 
to banish me out of the world. I was abhorred of them, and unfit to dwell 
among them, because I had sinned against the Saviour." Oh, how happy now 
was every creature over I ! for they stood fast, and kept their station. But I 
was gone and lost." Scarcely any madhouse could produce an instance of 
delusion so strong, or of misery so acute. 

It was through this Valley of the Shadow of Death, overhung by darkness, 
peopled with devils, resounding with blasphemy and lamentation, and passing 
amidst quagmires, snares, and pitfalls, • close by the very mouth of hell, that 
Bunyan journeyed to that bright and fruitful land of Beulah, in which he 
sojourned during the latter period of his pilgrimage. The only trace which 
his cruel sufferings and temptations seem to have left behind them was an 
affectionate compassion for those who were still in the state in which he had 
once been. Religion has scarcely ever worn a form so calm and soothing as 
in his allegory. The feeling \vhich predominates through the whole book is 
a feeling of tenderness for weak, timid, and harassed minds. The character 
of Mr. Fearing, of Mr. Feeblemind, of Mr. Despondency and his daughter 
Miss Muchafraid, the account of poor Littlefaith who was robbed by the three 
thieves of his spending money, the description of Christian's terror in the 
dungeons of Giant Despair and in his passage through the river, all clearly 
show how strong a sympathy Bnnyan felt, after his own mind had become 
clear and cheerful, for persons afflicted with religious melancholy. 

Mr. Southey, who has no love for the Calvinists, admits that, if Calvinism 
had never v/orn a blacker appearance than in^ Butiyan's works, it would never 
have become a terai of reproach. In fact, those works of Bunyan with which 
we are acquainted are by no means more Calvinistic than the articles and 
homilies of the Church of England. The moderation of his opinions on the 
subject of predestination gave offence to some zealous persons. We have seen 
an absurd allegory, the heroine of which is named liephzibah, written by 
some raving supralapsarian preacher who was dissatisfied with the mild 
theology of the Pilgrim's Progress. In this foolish book, if we recollect 
rightly, the Interpreter is called the Enlightener, and the House Beautiful is 
Castle Strength. Mr. Southey tells us that the Catholics had also their 
Pilgrim's Progress, without a Giant Pope, in which the Interpreter is the 
Director, and the House Beautiful, Grace's Hall. It is surely a remarkable 
proof of the power of Bunyan's genius, that two religious parties, both of 
which regarded his opinions as heterodox, should have had recourse to him 
for assistance. 

There are, we think, some characters and scenes in the Pilgrim's Progress 
which can be fully comprehended and enjoyed only by persons familiar with 
the history of the times through which Bunyan lived. The character of ^ Mr. 
Greatheart, the guide, is an example. His fighting is, of course, allegorical ; 
but the allegory is not strictly preserved. Pie delivers a sermon on imputed 
righteousness to his companions ; and, soon after, he gives battle to Giant 
Grim, who had taken upon him to back the lions. He expounds the tifty- 
third chapter of Isaiah to the household and guests of Gains ; and then he 
sallies out to attack Slaygood, who was of the nature of ftesh-eaters, in his 


den. These are inconsistencies ; but they are inconsistencies which add, we 
think, to the interest of the narrative. We have not the least doubt that 
Bunyan had in view some stout old Greatheart of Naseby and Worcester, 
who prayed with his men before he drilled them, who knew the spiritual 
state of every dragoon in his troop, and v/ho, with the praises of God in his 
mouth, and a two-edged sword in his hand, had turned to flight, on many 
fields of battle, the swearing, drunken bravoes of Rupert and Lunsford. 

Every age produces such men as By-ends. But the middle of the seven- 
teenth century was eminently prolific of such men. Mr. Southey thinks that 
the satire was aimed at some particular individual;, and this seems by no 
means improbable. At all events, Bunyan must have known many of those 
hypocrites who followed religion only when religion walked in silver slippers, 
when the sun shone, and when the people applauded. Indeed, he might have 
easily found all the kindred of By-ends among the public men of his time. 
He might have found among the peers my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time- 
server, and my Lord Fair-speech ; in the House of Commons, Mr. Smooth- 
man, Mr. Anything, and Mr. Facing-both-ways ; nor would "the parson of 
the parish, Mr. Two-tongues," have been wanting. The town of Bedford 
probably contained more than one politician who, after contriving to raise an 
estate by seeking the Lord during the reign of the saints, contrived to keep 
what he had got by persecuting the saints during the reign of the strumpets — 
and more than one priest who, during repeated changes in the discipline and 
doctrines of the Church, had remained constant to nothing but his benefice. 

One of the most remarkable passages in the Pilgrim's Progress is that in 
which the proceedings against Faithful are described. It is impossible to 
doubt that Bunyan intended to satirise the mode in \vhich state trials were 
conducted under Charles II. The licence given to the witnesses for the prose- 
cution, the shameless partiality and ferocious insolence of the judge, the pre- 
cipitancy and the blind rancour of the jury, remind us of those odious mum- 
meries which, from the Restoration to the Revolution, were merely forms 
preliminary to hanging, drawing, and quartering. Lord Hategood performs 
the office of counsel for the prisoners as well as Scroggs himself could have 
performed it.. 

"Judge. Thou runagate, heretic, and traitor, hast thou heard what these honest gentle* 
men have witnessed against thee ? 

" Faithful. May 1 speak a few words in my own defence? 

" Judge. Sirrah, sirrah ! thou deserves! to live no longer, but to be slain immediately tipoh 
the place ; yet, that all men may see our gentleness to thee, let us hear what thou, vile runa 
gale, hast to say." 

No person who knows the state trials can be at a loss for parallel cases. 
Indeed, write what Bunyan would, the baseness and cruelty of the lawyers 
of those times "sinned up to it still," and even went beyond it. The 
imaginary trial of Faithful, before a jury composed of personified vices, was 
just and merciful, when compared with the real trial of LaSy Alice Lisle 
before that tribunal w/ ere all the vJces sat in the person of Jeffenes. 

The style of Bunyan is delightful to every reader, and invaluable as a study 
to every person who wishes to obtain a widecomniand over the English lan- 
guage. The vocabulary is the vocabulary of the common people. There is 
not an expression, if we except a few technical terms of theology, which would 
puzzle the rudest peasant. We have observed several pages which do not 
contain a single word of more than two syllables. Yet no writer has said 
more exactly what he meant to say. For magnificence, for pathos, for vehe- 
ment exhortation^* for subtle disquisition, for every purpose of the poet, the 
orator, and the divine, this homely dialect,— the dialect of plain worivingmen, 


• — — — — — 1 ^ 

— was perfectly sufficient. There is no book in our literature on which we 
would so readily stake the fame of the old unpolluted English language,— no 
book which shows so well how rich that language is in its own proper wealthy 
and how little it has been improved by all that it has borrowed. 

Cowper said, forty or fifty years ago, that he dared not name John Bunyan 
in his verse, for fear of moving a sneer. To our refined forefathers, we sup- 
^pose. Lord Roscommon's Essay on Translated Verse, and the Duke of Buck- 
inghamshire's Essay on Poetry, appeared to be compositions infinitely superior 
to the allegory of the preaching tinker. We live in better times ; and we are 
not afraid to say that, though there were many clever men in England during 
the latter half of the seventeenth centur}-, there were only two great creative 
minds. One of those minds produced the Paradise Lost, the other the Pil- 
grim's Progress, 


Some Memorials of John Hampden, his Party, and his Times. By LoRO NOGBKT. 
2 vols. 8vo. London. 1831 

We have read this book with great pleasure, though not exactly with tha 
kind of pleasure which we had expected. We had hoped that Lord Nugent 
would have been able to collect, from family papers and local traditions, 
much new and interesting information respecting the life and character of 
the renowned leader of the Long Parliament, — the first of those great English 
commoners whose plain addition of Mister has, to our ears, a more majestic 
sound than the proudest of the feudal titles. In this hope we have been 
disappointed ; but assuredly not from any want of zeal or diligence on the part 
of the noble iDiugrapher. Even at Hampden, there are, it seems, no important 
papers relating to the most illustrious proprietor of that ancient domain. The 
most valuable memorials of him which still exist, belong to the family of his 
friend, Sir John Eliot. Lord Eliot has furnished the portrait which is engraved 
for this work, together with some very interesting letters. The portrait is un- 
doubtedly an original, and probably the only original now in existence. The 
intellectual forehead, the mild penetration of the eye, and the inflexible resolu- 
tion expressed by the lines of the mouth, sufficiently guarantee the likeness. 
We shall probably make some extracts from the letters. They contain almost 
all the new information that Lord Nugent has been able to procure respecting 
the private pursuits of the great man whose memory he worships with an 
enthusiastic, but not extravagant, veneration. 

The public life of Hampden is surrounded by no obscurity. His history, 
more particulary from the year 1640 to his death, is the history of England. 
These memoirs must be considered as memoirs of the history of England ; 
and, as such, they well deserve to be attentively perused. They contain some 
curious facts wJiich, to us at leait, are new, — much spirited narrative, many 
judicious remarks, and much eloquent declamation. 

We are not sure that even the want of information respecting the private 
character of Hampden is not in itself a circumstance as strikingly characteristic 
as any which the most minute chronicler, — O'Meara, Mrs. Thrale, or Boswell 
himself, — ever recorded concerning their heroes. The celebrated Puritan 
leader is an almost solitary instance of a great man who neither sought nor 
shunned greatness, — who found glory only because glory lay in the plain path 
of duty. During more than forty years he was known to Jus country neigh- 
bours as a gentleman of cultivated mind, of high principles, of polished 
address, happy in his family, and active in the discharge of* local duties ; — and 
to political men, as an honest, industrious, and sensible njember of Parliament! 


not eager to display his talents, stanch to his party, and attentive to the 
interests of his constituents. A great and terrible crisis came. A direct 
attack was made by an arbitrary government on a sacred right of Englishmen, 
— on a right which was the chief security for all their other rights. The nation 
looked round for a defender. Calmly and unostentatiously the plain Bucking- 
hamshire esquire placed himself at the head of his countrymen, and right 
before the face and across the path of tyranny. The times grew darker and 
more troubled. " Public service, perilous, arduous, delicate, was required ; and 
to every service the intellect and the courage of this wonderful man were found 
fully equal. He became a debater of the first order, a most dexterous 
manager of the House of Commons, a negotiator, a soldier. He governed a 
fierce and turbulent assembly, abounding in able men, as easily as he had 
governed his family. He showed himself as competent to direct a campaig^ 
as to conduct the business of the petty sessions. We can scarcely express the 
admiration which we feel for a mind so great, and, at the same time, so 
healthful and so well proportioned, — so willingly contracting itself to the 
humblest duties, — so easily expanding itself to the highest, — so contented in 
repose, — so powerful in action. Almost every part of this virtuous and blame- 
less life which is not hidden from us in modest privacjfis a precious and 
splendid portion of our national history. Had the private conduct of 
Hampden afforded the slightest pretence for censure, he would have been 
assailed by the same blind malevolence which, in defiance of the clearest 
proofs, still continues to call Sir John Eliot an assassin. Had there been even 
any weak part in the character of Hampden, had his manners been in any 
respect open to ridicule, we may be sure that no mercy would have been shown 
to him by the writers of Charles's faction. Those writers have carefully pre- 
served every little circumstance which could tend to make their opponents 
odious or contemptible. They have told us that Pym broke down in a speech, 
that Ireton had his nose pulled by Hollis, that the Earl of Northumberland 
cudgeled Henry Marten, that St. John's manners were sullen, that Vane had 
an ugly face, that Cromwell had a red nose. They have made themselves 
merry with the cant of injudicious zealots. But neither the artful Clarendon 
nor the scurrilous Denham could venture to throw the slightest imputation on 
the morals or the manners of Hampden. What was the opinion entertained 
respecting him by the best men of his time, we learn from Baxter. That 
eminent person,— eminent not only for his piety and his fervid devotional 
eloquence, but for his moderation, his knowledge of political affairs, and his 
skill in judging of characters, — declared in the Saint's Rest that one of the 

Pleasures which he hoped to enjoy in heaven was the society of Hampden, 
n the editions printed after the Restoration, the name of Hampden was 
omitted. "But I must tell the reader," says Baxter, "that I did blot it out, 
not as changing my opinion of the person. . . . Mr. John Hampden was one 
that friends and enemies acknowledged to be most eminent for prudence, 
piety, and peaceable counsels, having the most universal praise of any gentle- 
man that I remember of that age. I remember a moderate, prudent, aged 
gentleman, far from him, but acquainted with him, whom I have heard saying, 
that if he might choose what person he would be then in the world, he would 
be John Hampden." We cannot but regret that we have not fuller memorials 
of a man who, after passing through the most severe temptations by which 
human virtue can be tried, — after acting a most conspicuous part in a revolu- 
tion and a civil war, could yet deserve such praise as this from such authority. 
Yet the want of memorials is surely tho bc-st proof that hatred itself could 
find no blemish on his memory. » 

The 5tQry of his e»rly life is soon told, H? was the head pf ^ fjimiljj' whicli 


had been settled in Buckinghamsliire before the Conquest. Part of the estate 
which he inherited had been bestowed by Edward the Confessor on Baldwyi> 
de Hampden, whose name seems to indicate that he was one of the Norman 
favourites of the last Saxon king. During the contest between the houses of 
Vork and Lancaster, the Hampdens adhered to the party of the Red Rose, 
and were, consequently, persecuted by Edward IV., and favoured bv 
Henry VH. Under the Tudors, the family was great and flourishing. 
Griffith Hampden, high sheriff of Buckinghamshire, entertained Elizabeth 
with great magnificence at his seat. His son, William Hampden, sate in the 
Parliament which that queen summoned in the year 1593. William married 
Elizabeth Cromwell, aunt of the celebrated man who afterwards governed the 
British islands with more than regal power ; and from this marriage sprang 
John Hampden. 

He was born in 1594- In 1597 his father died, and left h^m heir to a very 
large estate. After passing some years at the grammar-school of Thame, 
young Hampden was sent, at fifteen, to Magdalene College, in the Univer- 
sity of Oxford. At nineteen, he was admitted a student of the Inner Temple, 
where he made himself master of the principles of the English law. In 1619 
he married ElizabAh Symeon, a lady to whom he appears to have been 
fondly attached. In the following year he was returned to Parliament by a 
borortgh which has in our time obtained a miserable celebrity, the borough of 

Of his private life during his early years little is known beyond what 
Clarendon has told us. *'In his entrance into the world," says that great 
historian, *' he indulged himself in all the licence in sports, and exercises, and 
company, which were used by men of the most jolly conversation." A 
remarkable change, however, passed on his character, **0n a sudden," says 
Clarendon, "from a life of great pleasure and licence, he retired to extra- 
ordinary sobriety and strictness, — to a more reserved and melancholy society." 
It is probable that this change took place when Hampden was about twenty- 
five years old. At that age he was united to a woman whom he loved and 
esteemed. At that age he entered into political life. A mind so happily 
constituted as his would naturally, under such circumstances, relinquish the 
pleasures of dissipation for domestic enjoyments and public duties. 

His enemies have allowed that he was a man in whom virtue showed itself 
in its mildest and least austere form. With the morals of a Puritan, he had 
the manners of an accomplished courtier. Even after the change in his habits, 
**he preserved," says Clarendon, "his own natural cheerfulness and vivacity, 
and, above all, a flowing courtesy to all men." These qualities distinguished 
him from most of the members of his sect and his party, and, in the great 
crisis in which he afterwards took a principal part, were of scarcely less service 
to the country than his keen sagacity and his dauntless courage. 

In January, 162 1, Hampden look his seat in the House of Commons. His 
mother was exceedingly desirous that her son should obtain a peerage. His 
family, his possessions, and his personal accomplishments were such as would, 
in any age, have justified him in pretending to that honour. But in the reign 
of James I. there was one short cut to the House of Lords. It was but to ask, 
to pay, and to have. The sale of titles was carried on as openly as the sale 
of boroughs in our times. Hampden turned away with contempt fi-om the de- 
grading honours with which his family desired to see him invested, and 
attached himself to the party which was in opposition to the court. 

It was about this time, as Lord Nugent has justly remarked, that parlia- 
mentary opposition began to take a regular form. From a very early age, 
the English had enjoyed a far larger share of liberty than had fallen to the lot 


of any neighbouring people. How it chanced that a country conquered and 
enslaved by invaders — a country of which the soil had been portioned out 
among foreign adventurers, and of which the laws were written in a foreign 
tongue — a country given over to that worst tyranny, the tyranny of caste over 
caste, — should have become the seat of civil liberty, the object of the admira- 
tion and envy of surrounding states, is one of the most obscure problems in 
the philosophy of history. But the fact is certain. Within a century and o 
half after theJNorman conquest, the Great Charter was conceded. Within 
two centuries after the Conquest, the first House of Commons met. Froissart 
tells us, what, indeed, his whole narrative sufficiently proves, that, of all the 
nations of the fourteenth century, the English were the least disposed to 
endure oppression. "C'est le plus perilleux peuple qui soit au monde, et plus 
outrageux et orgueilleux." The good canon probably did not perceive that all 
the prosperity and internal peace which this dangerous people enjoyed were 
the fruits of the spirit which he designates as proud and outrageous. He has, 
however, borne ample testimony to the effect, though he was not sagacious 
enough to trace it to its cause. "En le royaume d'Angleterre," says he, 
'* toutes gens, laboureurs et marchands, ont appris de vivre en paix, et a mener 
leurs marchandises paisiblement, et les laboureurs labourer." In the fifteenth 
century, though England was convulsed by the struggle between the two 
branches of the royal family, the physical and moral condition of the people 
continued to improve. Villenage almost wholly disappeared. The calamities 
of war were little felt, except by those who bore arms. The oppressions of the 
government were little felt, except by the aristocracy. The institutions of the 
country, when compared with the institutions of the neighbouring kingdoms, 
ieem to have been not undeserving of the praises of Fortescue. The govern- 
ment of Edward IV., though we call it cruel and arbitrary, was humane ani 
liberal when compared with that of Louis XI., or that of Charles the Bold, 
Comines, who had lived amidst the wealthy cities of Flanders, and who had 
visited Florence and Venice, had never seen a people so well governed as the 
English. *' Or selon mon advis," says he, "entre toutes les seigneuries du 
monde, dont j'ay connoissance, ou la chose publique est mieulx traitee, et ou 
regne moins de violence sur le peuple, et ou il n'y a nuls edifices abbatus ny 
demolis pour guerre, c'est Angleterre ; et tombe le sort et le malheur sur ceulx 
qui font la gueue. 

About the close of the fifteenth and the commencement of the sixteentli 
century, a great portion of the influence which the aristocracy had possessed 
passed to the Crown. No English king has ever enjoyed such absolute power 
ns Henry VIII. But while the royal prerogatives were acquiring strength at 
the expense of the nobility, two great revolutions took place, destined to be 
the parents of many revolutions, the invention of printing and the reformation 
of the Church. 

The immediate efTect o^ the Reformation in England was by no means 
favourable to political liberty. The authority which had been exercised by the 
popes was transferred almost entire to the king. Two formidable powers 
which had often served to check each other were united in a single despot. If 
the system on which the founders of the Church of England acted could have 
been permanent, the Reformation would have been, in a political sense, the 
greatest curse that ever fell on our country. But that system carried within 
It the seeds of its own death. It was possible to transfer the name of Head of 
the Church from Clement to Henry ; but it was impossible to transfer to the 
new establishment the veneration which the old establishment had inspired. 
Mankind had not broken one yoke in pieces only in order to put on another. 
The supremacy of the Bishop of Rome had been for ages considered as a fun'« 


'.tamental principle of Christianity. It had for it everything that cou.d make 
a prejudice deep and strong, — venerable antiquity, high authority, general 
consent. It had been taught in the first lessons of the nurse. It was taken 
for granted in all the exhortations of the priest. To remove it was to break 
innumerable associations, and to give a great and perilous shock to the 
principles. Yet this prejudice, strong as it was, could not stand in the great 
ilay of the deliverance of the human reason. And it was not to be expected 
that the public mind, just after freeing itself by an unexampled effort, from a 
bondage which it had endured for ages, would patiently submit to a tyranny 
which could plead no ancient title. Rome had at least prescription on its 
side. Cut Protestant intolerance, — despotism in an upstart sect, — infallibility 
claimed by guides who acknowledged that they had passed the greater part of 
their lives in error, — restraints imposed on the liberty of private judgment, 
at' the pleasure of rulers who could vindicate their own proceedings only 
by asserting the liberty ot private judgment, — these things could not 
long be borne. Those who had pulled down the crucifix could not long 
continue to persecute for the surplice. It required no great sagacity to 
perceive the inconsistency and dishonesty of men who, dissenting from 
almost all Christendom, would suffer none to dissent from themselves, who 
demanded freedom of conscience, yet refused to grant it, — who execrated per- 
secution, yet persecuted, — who urged reason against the authority of one oppo- 
nent, and authority against the reasons of another. Bonner acted at least in ac- 
cordance with his own principles. Cranmer could vindicate himself from the 
charge of being a hereticonly by arguments which made him out to be a murderer. 

Thus the system on which the English princes acted with respect to ecclesi- 
astical affairs for some time after the Reformation was a system too obviously 
unreasonable to be lasting. The public mind moved while the government 
moved, but would not stop where the government stopped. The same impulse 
which had carried millions away from the Church of Rome continued to carry 
them forward in the same direction. As Catholics had become Protestants, 
Protestants became Puritans ; and the Tudors and Stuarts were as unable to 
avert the latter change as the popes had been to avert the former. The dis- 
senting party increased and became strong under every kind of discouragement 
and oppresssion. They were a sect. The government persecuted them, and 
they became an opposition. The old constitution of England furnished to 
them the means of resisting the sovereign without breaking the law. They 
were the majority of the House of Commons. They had the power of giving 
or withholding supplies ; and, by a judicious exercise of this power, they 
might hope to take from the Church its usurped authority over the consciences 
of men, and from the Crown some part of the vast prerogative which it had 
recently acquired at the expense of the nobles and of the pope. 

The faint beginnings of this memorable contest may be discerned early in 
the reign of Elizabeth. The conduct of her last Parliament made it clear that 
one of those great revolutions which policy may guide but cannot stop was in 
progress. It was on the question of monopolies that the House of Commons 
gained its first great victory over the throne. The conduct of the extraordinary 
woman who then governed England is an admirable study for politicians who 
live in unquiet times. It shows how thoroughly she understood the people 
whom she ruled, and the crisis in which she was called to act. What she 
held she held firmly. What she gave she gave graciously. She saw that it 
was necessary to make a concession to the nation ; and she made it, not 
grudgingly, not tardily, not as a matter of bargain and sale, not, in a word, as 
Charles I. would have made it, but promptly and cordially. Before a bill 
could be framed or an address presented, she applied a remedy to the evil (^ 


which the nation complained. She expressed in the wannest tenns her gi-ati* 
tude to her faithful Commons for detecting abuses which interested parsons 
had concealed from her. If her successors had inherited her wisdom with her 
crown, Charles I. might have died of old age, and James II. would never have 
seen St. Germain's. 

She died ; and the kingdom passed to one who was, in his own opinion, 
the greatest master of kingcraft that ever lived, — but who was, in truth, one 
of those kings whom God seems to send for the express purpose of hastening 
revolutions. Gf all the enemies of liberty whom Britain has produced, he 
was at once the most harmless and the most provoking. His office resembled 
that of the man who, in a Spanish bull-fight, goads the torpid savage to fury, 
by shaking a red rag iu the air, and by now and then throwing a dart, sharp 
enough to sting, but too small to injure. The policy of wise tyrants has always 
been to cover their violent acts with popular forms. James was always ob- 
truding his despotic theories on his subjects without the slightest necessity. 
His foolish talk exasperated them infinitely more than forced loans or benevo- 
lences would have done. Yet, in practice, no king ever held his prerogatives 
less tenaciously. He neither gave way gracefully to the advancing spirit of 
liberty nor took vigorous measures to stop it, but retreated before it with 
ludicrous haste, blustering and insulting as he retreated. The English people 
had been governed during nearly a hundred and fifty years by princes who, 
whatever might be their frailties or their vices, had all possessed great force of 
character, and who, whether beloved or hated, had always been feared. Now, 
at length, for the first time since the day when the sceptre of Henry IV. dropped 
from the hand of his lethargic grandson, England had a king whom she despised. 
The follies and vices of the man increased the contempt which was produced 
by the feeble policy of the sovereign. The indecorous gallantries of the court, 
— the habits of gross intoxication in which even the ladies indulged, — were 
alone sufficient to disgust a people whose manners were beginning to be strongly 
tinctured with austerity. But these were trifles. Crimes of the most frightful 
kind had been discovered ; others were suspected. The strange story of the 
Gowries was not forgotten. The ignominious fondness of the king for his 
minions, — the perjuries, the sorceries, the poisonings, which his chief favourites 
had planned within the walls of his palace, — the pardon which, in direct 
violation of his duty and of his word, he had granted to the mysterious threats 
of a murderer, made him an object of loathing to many of his subjects. What 
opinion grave and moral persons residing at a distance from the court enter- 
tained respecting him we learn from Mrs. Hutchinson's Memoirs. England 
was no place, — the seventeenth century no time, — for Sporus and Locusta. 

This was not all. The most ridiculous weaknesses seemed to meet in the 
wretched Solomon of Whitehall, — pedantry, buffoonery, garrulity, low curiosity, 
the most contemptible personal cowardice. Nature and education had done 
their best to produce a finished specimen of all that a king ought not to be. 
His awkward figure, his rolling eye, his rickety walk, his nervous tremblings, 
his slobbering mouth, his broad Scotch accent, were imperfections which 
might have been found in the best and greatest man. Their effect, however, 
was to make James and his office objects of contempt, and to dissolve those 
associations which had been created by the noble bearing of preceding mon- 
archs, and which were in themselves no inconsiderable fence to royalty. 

The sovereign whom James most resembled was, we think, Claudius Ccesar. 
Both had the same feeble and vacillating temper, the same childishness, the 
game coarseness, the same poltroonery. Both were men of learning; both 
wrote and spoke, — not indeed well, — but still in a manner in which it seems 
almost incredible that men so foolish should have written or spoken. Tho 


" «% 
follies and indecencies of James are well described in the words which Saeto. 
nius uses respecting Claudius : " Multa talia, etiam privatis deformia, necdnni 
principi, neque infacundo, neque indocto, immo etiam, pertinaciter liberalibus 
studiis dedito." The description given by Suetonius of the manner in which 
the Roman prince transacted business exactly suits the Briton. *'In cogno- 
scendo ac decern endo mira varietate animi fuit, modo circumspectus et sagax, 
inodo inconsultus ac proeceps, nonnumquam frivolus amentique simil'5." 
Claudius was ruled successively by two bad women : James succeaavely by 
two bad men. Even the description of the person of Claudius, which we find 
in the ancient memoirs, might, in many points, serve for that of James. 
"Ceterum et ingredientem destituebant poplites minus firmi, et remisse quid 
vel serio agentem multa dehonestabant, risus indecens, ira turpior, spumante 
rictu, — pr^terea linguoe titubantia." 

' The Parliament which James had called soon after his accession had been 
refractory. His second Parliament, called in the spring of 1614, had been 
more refractory still. It had been dissolved after a session of two months ; 
and during six years the king had governed without having recourse to the 
legislature. During those six years, melancholy and disgraceful events, at 
home and abroad, had followed one another in rapid succession ; — the divorce 
of I.pdy Essex, the murder of Overbury, the elevation of Villiers, the pardon 
of Somerset, the disgrace of Coke, the execution of Raleigh, the battle of 
Prague, the invasion of the Palatinate by Spinola, the ignominious flight of 
the son-in law of the English king, the depression of the Protestant interest 
all over the Continent. All the extraordinary modes by which James could 
\'enture to raise monpy had been tried, tlis necessities were greater than 
ever ; and he was compelled to summon the Parliament in which Hampden 
made his* first appearance as a public man. 

This Parliament lasted about twelve months. During that time it visited 
with deserved punishment several of those who during the preceding six years 
had enriched themselves by peculation and monopoly. Michell, one of the 
grasping patentees who had purchased of the favourite the power of robbing 
the nation, was fined and imprisoned for life. Mompesson, the original, it 
is said, of Massinger's Overreach, was outlawed and deprived of his ill-gotten 
wealth. Even Sir Edward Villiers, the brother of Buckingham, found it 
convenient to leave England,- A greater name is to be added to the igno- 
minious list. By this Parliament was brought to justice that illustrious 
philosopher whose memory genius has half redeemed from the infamy due to 
servility, to ingratitude, and to corraption. 

After redressing internal grievances the Commons proceeded to take into 
consideration the state of Europe. The king flew into a rage with them for 
meddling with such matters, and, with characteristic judgment, drew them into 
a controversy about the origin of their House and of its privileges. When he 
found that he could not convince them, he dissolved them in a passion, and 
sent some of the leaders of the Opposition to ruminate on his logic in prison. 

During the time which elapsed between this dissolution and the meeting of 
the next Parliament, took place the celebrated negotiation respecting the 
Infanta. The would-be despot was unmercifully browbeaten. The would-ba 
Solomon was ridiculously overreached. '•'Steenie," in spite of the begging 
and sobbing of his dear **dad and gossip," carried off baby Charles in triumph 
to Madrid. The sweet lads, as James called them, came back safe, but with- 
out their errand. The great master of kingcraft, in looking for a Spanish 
match, had found a Spaaisn war. In February, 1624, a Parliament met, 
during the whole silting of which James was a mere puppet in the hands of his 
••baby," and of his "poor slave and dog." The Commons were disposed to 


support the king in the vigorous policy which his son and his favourite urged 
him to adopt. But they were not disposed to place any confidence in their 
feeble sovereign and his dissolute courtiers, or to relax in their efforts to remove 
public grievances. They, therefore, lodged the money which they voted for 
the war in the hands of Parliamentary Commissioners. They impeached the 
treasurer. Lord Middlesex, for corruption, and they passed a bill by which 
patents of monopoly were declared illegal. 

Hampden did not, during the reign of James, take any prominent part in 
public affairs. It is certain, however, that he paid great attention to the details 
of Parliamentary business, and to the local interests of his own county. It 
was in a great measure owing to his exertions that Wendover and lome other 
boroughs on which the popular party could depend recovered tae elective 
franchise, in spite of the opposition of the court. 

The health of the king had for some time been declining. On the twenty- 
seventh of March, 1625, he expired. Under his weak rule the spirit of liberty 
had grown strong, and had become equal to a great contest. The contest was 
brought on by the policy of his successor. Charles bore no resemblance to his 
father. He was not a driveller, or a pedant, or a buffoon, or a coward. It 
would be absurd to deny that he was a scholar and a gentleman, a man of 
exquisite taste in the fine arts, a man of strict morals in private life. His 
talents for business were respectable ; his demeanour was kingly. But he was 
false, imperious, obstinate, narrow-minded, ignorant of the temper of his people, 
unobservant of the signs of his times. The whole principle of his government 
was resistance to public opinion ; nor did he make any real concession to that 
opinion till it mattered not whether he resisted or conceded, — till the nation, 
which had long ceased to love him or to trust him, had at last ceased to fear him. 

His first Parliament met in June, 1625. Hampden sat in it as burgess 
for Wendover. The king wished for money. The Commons wished for 
the redress of grievances. The war, however, could not be carried on 
without funds. The plan of the Opposition was, it should seem, to dole out 
supplies by small sums, in order to prevent a speedy dissolution. They gave 
the king two subsidies only, and proceeded to complain that his ships had been 
employed against the Huguenots in France, and to petition in behalf of the 
Puritans who were persecuted in England. The king dissolved them, and 
raised money by letters under his Privy Seal. The supply fell far short of what 
he needed ; and, in the spring of 1626, he called together another Parliament. 
In this Parliament Hampden again sat for Wendover. 

The Commons resolved to grant a very liberal supply, but to defer the final 
passing of the act for that purpose till the grievances of the nation should be 
redressed. The struggle which followed fai; exceeded in violence any that had 
yet taken place. The Commons impeached Buckingham. The king threw the 
■managers of the impeachment into prison. Tlie Commons denied the right of 
the king to levy tonnage and poundage without their consent. The king db- 
solved them. They put forth a remonstrance. The king circulated a declaration 
vindicating his measures, and committed some of the most distinguished mem- 
bers of the Opposition to close custody .Money was raised by a forced loan, 
which was apportioned among the people according to the rate at which they 
had been respectively assessed to the last subsidy. On this occasion it was that 
Hampden made his first stand for the fundamental principle of the English 
Constitution. He positively refused to lend :- farthing. He was required to 
give his reasons. He answered *' thit he could be content to lend as well as 
others, but feared to draw upon himself that curse in Magna Charta, which 
should be read twice a year, against those who infringe it.'' For this spirited 
a:xswer the Privy Council con^mitted him close prisoner to the Gate House* 


After some time he was again brought up ; but he persisted in hiir refusal, tnd 
was sent to a place of confinement in Hampshire. 

The government went on, oppressing at home, and blundering in all its 
measures abroad. A war was foolishly undertaken against France, and more 
foolishly conducted. Buckingham led an expedition against Rhe, and failed 
ignominiously. In the meantime soldiers were billeted on the people. Crimes 
of which ordinary justice should have taken cognisance were punishe'-" by 
martial law. Near eighty gentlemen were imprisoned for refusing to contribatc 
to the forced loan. The lower people who showed any signs of insubordination 
were pressed into the fleet, or compelled to serve in the army. Money, how- 
ever, came in slowly; and the king was compelled to summon another 
Parliament. In the hope of conciliating his subjects, he set at liberty the 
jiersons who had been imprisoned for refusing to comply with his unlaw;ul 
demands. Hampden regained his freedom, and was immediately re-elected 
burgess for Wendover. 

Early in 1628 the Parliament met. During its first session the Commons 
prevailed on the king, after many delays and much equivocation, to give, in 
return for five subsidies, his full and solemn assent to that celebrated instru- 
ment — the second great charter of the liberties of England,— known by the 
name of the Petition of Right. By agreeing to this act the king bound himself 
to Taise no taxes without the consent of Parliament, to imprison no man except 
by legal process, to billet no more soldiers on the people, and to leave the 
cognisance of offences to the ordinary tribunals. 

In the summer this memorable Parliament was prorogued. It met again in 
January, 1629. Buckingham was no more. That weak, violent, and dissolute ad- 
venturer, who, with no talents or acquirements but those of a mere courtier, had, 
in a great crisis of foreign and domestic politics, ventured on the part of prime 
minister, had fallen, during the recess of Parliament, by the hand of an assassin. 
Both before and after his death the war had been feebly and unsuccessfully 
conducted. The king had continued, in direct violation of the Petition of 
Right, to raise tonnage and poundage without the consent of Parliament. The 
troops had again been billeted on the people ; and it was clear to the Commons 
that the five subsidies which they had given as the price of the national liberties 
had been given in vain. 

They met accordingly in no complying humour. They took into their 
most serious consideration the measures of the government concerning ton- 
nage and poundage. They summoned the officers of the custom-house to 
their bar. They interrogated the barons of the exchequer. They committed 
one of the sheriffs of London. Sir John Eliot, a distinguished member of the 
Opposition, and an intimate friend of Hampden, proposed a resolution con- 
demning the unconstitutional imposition. The Speaker said that the king 
had commanded him to put no such question to the vote. This decision 
produced the most violent burst of feeling ever seen within the walls of Parlia- 
ment. Hayman remonstrated vehemently against the disgraceful language 
which had been heard from the chair. Eliot dashed the paper which con- 
tained his resolution on the floor of the House. Valentine and Holiis held 
the Speaker down in his seat by main force, and read the motion amidst the 
loudest shouts. The door was locked — the key was laid on the table. Black 
Rod knocked for admittance in vain. After passing several strong resolutions, 
the House adjourned. On the day appointed for its meeting it was dissolved 
by the king, and several of its most eminent members, among whom were 
llollis and Sir John Eliot, were committed to prison. 

Though Hampden had as yet taken little part in the debates of the House. 
h« bad been a member of many very importaut committees, and had rea4 aoit 


written much concerning the law of Parliament. A manuscript volume of 
Parliamentary cases, which is still in existence, contains many extracts from 
his notes. 

He now retired to the duties and pleasures of a rural life. During the 
eleven years which followed the dissolution of the Parliament of 1628, he 
resided at his seat in one of the most beautiful parts of the county of Buck- 
ingham. The house, wliich has since his time been greatly altered, and which 
is now, we believe, almost entirely neglected, was then an old English 
mansion built in the days of the Plantagenets and the Tudors. It stood on 
the brow of a hill which overlooks a narrow valley. The extensive woods 
whjph surround it were pierced by long avenues. One of those avenues the 
grandfather of the great statesman had cut for the approach of Elizabeth ; and ^ 
the opening, which is still visible for many miles, retains the name of the 
Queen's Gap. In this delightful retreat Hampden passed several years, 
performing with great activity all the duties of a landed gentleman and a 
magistrate, and amusing himself with books and with field sports. 

He was not in his retirement unmindful of his persecuted friends. In 
particular, he kept up a close correspondence with Sir John Eliot, who was 
confined in the Tower. Lord Nugent has published several of the letters. 
We may perhaps be fanciful ; — but it seems to us that every one of them is 
an admirable illustration of some part of the character of Hampden which 
Clarendon has drav/n. 

Part of the correspondence relates to the two sons of Sir John Eliot. 
These young men were wild and unsteady ; and their father, who was now 
separated from them, was naturally anxious about their conduct. He at 
length resolved to send one of them to France, and the other to serve a 
campaign in the Low Countries. The letter which we subjoin shows that 
Hampden, though rigorous towards himself, was not uncharitable towards 
others, and that his puritanism was perfectly compatible with the sentiments 
and the tastes of an accomplished gctntleman. It also illustrates admirably 
what has been said of him by Clarendon : — *' He was of that rare affability 
and temper in debate, and of that seeming humility and submission of judg- 
ment, as if he brought no opinion of his own with him, but a desire of 
information and instruction. Yet he had so subtle a way of interrogating, 
and, under cover of doubts, insinuating his objections, that he infused his 
own opinions into those from whom he pretended to learn and receive them." 

The letter runs thus: — "I am so perfectly acquainted with your clear 
insight into the dispositions of men, and ability to fit them with courses 
suitable, that, had you bestowed sons of mine as you have done your own, 
my judgment durst hardly have called it into question, especially when, in 
laying the design, you have prevented the objections to be made against it. 
For if Mr. Ricliard I^iot will, in the intermissions of action, add study to 
practice and adorn that lively spirit with flowers of contemplation, he will 
raise our expectatioii^ of another Sir Edward Vere, that had this character 
— all sv.oimer in the field, all winter in his study — in whose fall fame makes 
this kingdom a great loser ; and, having taken this resolution from counsel 
with the highest wisdom, as I doubt not you have, I hope and pray that the 
same power will crown it with a blessing answerable to your wish. The way 
you take with my other friend shows you to be none of the Bishop of Exeter's 
converts ; * of whose mind neither am I superstitiously. But had my opinion 

* Lord Nugent, we think, has misutfSerstood this passage. Hampden seems lo allude to 
JJishop Hall's sixth satire, in which the custom of sending young men abroad is censured, 
and an academic life recommended. We have a general recollection that there if something 
(0 tlje ?iin)e effect in Hall's prosc-wwk ; but have not tirae t« search tbcin. 


been asked, I should, as vulgar conceits use me to do, have showed my power 
rather to raise objections than to answer them. A temper * between Franc* 
and Oxford, might have taken away his scruples, with more advantage to his 

years For although he be one of those that, if his age were looked for 

in no other book but that of the mind, would be found no ward if he should 
die to-morrow, yet it is a great hazard, metliinks, to see so sweet a disposition 
guarded with no more, amongst a people whereof many make it their religion 
to be superstitious in impiety, and iheir behaviour to be affected in ill 
manners. But God, who only knoweth the periods of life and opportunities 
to come, hath designed him, I hope, for his own service betime, and stirred 
up your providence to husband him so early for great affairs. Then shall he 
be sure to find Him in France that Abraham did in Sechem and Joseph* in 
Egypt, under whose wing alone is perfect safety.'* 

Sir John Eliot employed himself, during his imprisonment, in writing a 
treatise on government, which he transmitted to his friend. Hampden's 
criticisms are strikingly characteristic. They are written with all that ** flow- 
ing courtesy " which is ascribed to him by Clarendon. The objections are 
insinuated with so much delicacy that they could scarcely gall the most irri« 
table author. We see too how highly Hampden valued in the writings of 
others that conciseness which was one of the most striking peculiarities of 
his own eloquence. Sir John Eliot's style was, it seems, too diffuse, and it is 
impossible not to admire the skill with which this is suggested. "The 
piece," says Hampden, **is as complete an image of the pattern as can be 
drawn bylines, — a lively character of a large mind, — the subject, method, and 
expression, excellent and homogeneal, and, to say the truth, sweetheart, some- 
what exceeding my commendations. My words cannot render them to the 
life. Yet,— < to show my ingenuity rather than wit, — would not a less model 
have given a full representation of that subject, — not by diminution but by 
contraction of parts? I desire to learn. I dare not say. — The variations 
upon each particular seem many ; — all, I confess, excellent. The fountain 
was full, the channel narrow ; that may be the cause ; or that the author 
resembled Virgil, who made more verses by many than he intended to write. 
To extract a just number, had I seen all his, I could easily have bid him 
make fewer ; but if he had bade me tell him which he should have spared, I 
had been posed." 

This is evidently the writing not only of a man of good sense and natural 
good taste, but of a man of literary habits. Of the studies of Hampden little 
is known. But, as it was at one time in contemplation to give him the 
charge of the education of the Pjrince of Wales, it cannot be doubted that 
his acquirements were considerable. Davila, it is said, was one of his favourite 
writers. The moderation of Davila's opinions and the perspicuity and manli- 
ness of his style could not but recommend him to so judicious a reader. It is 
not improbable that the parallel between France and England, the Huguenots 
and the Puritans, had struck the mind of Hampden, and that he already felt 
vithin himself powers not unequal to the lofty part of Coligni. 

While he was engaged in these pursuits, a heavy domestic calamity fell on 
him. His wife, who had borne him nine children, died in the summer of 
1634. She lies in the parish church of Hampden, close to the manor-house. 
The tender and energetic language of her epitaph still attests the bitterness of 
her husband's sorrow, and the consolation which he found in a hope full of 

In the meantime, the aspect of public affairs grew darker and darker. The 

A middle course^a coroprcmiss. 


health of Eliot had sunk under an unlawful in^prisonment of several years. 
The brave sufierer relused to purchase liberty, though liberty would to him 
have been life, by recognizing the authority which had confined him. In 
consequence of the representations of his physicians, the severity of restraint 
was somewhat relaxed. But it was in vain. He languished and expired, a 
martyr to that good cause for which his friend Hampden was destined to 
meet a more brilliant, but not a more honourable death. 

All the promises of the king were violated without scruple or shame. The 
Petition of Right, to which he had, in consideration of moneys duly num- 
bered, given a solemn assent, was set at naught. Taxes were raised by the 
roya. authority. Patents of monopoly were granted. The old usages of 
feudal times were made pretexts for harassing the people with exactions 
unknown during many years. The Puritans were persecuted with cruelty 
worthy Of the Holy Office. They were forced to fly from the country. They 
were imprisoned. They were whipped. Their ears were cut off. Their 
noses were slit. Their cheeks were branded with red-hot iron. But the 
cruelty of the oppressor could not. tire out the fortitude of the victims. The 
mutilated defenders of liberty again defied the vengeance of the Star Chamber, 
— came back with undiminished resolution to the place of their glorious 
infamy, and manfully presented the stumps of their ears to be grubbed out 
by the hangman's knife. The hardy sect grew up and flourished in spite of 
everything that seemed likely to stunt it — struck its roots deep into a barren 
soil, and spread its branches wide to an inclement sky. The multitude 
thronged round Prynne in the pillory with more respect than they paid to 
Main waring in the pulpit, and treasured up the rags which the blood of 
Burton had soaked, with a veneration such as mitres and surplices had 
ceased to inspire. 

For the misgovernment of this disastrous period Charles himself is prin« 
cipally responsible. After the death of Buckingham, he seems to have been 
his own prime minister. He had, however, two counsellors who seconded 
him, or went beyond him, in intolerance and lawless violence ; the one a 
superstitious driveller, as honest as a vile temper would suffer him to be, the 
other a man of great valour and c;ipacity, but licentious, faithless, corrupt, 
and cruel. 

Never were faces more strikingly characteristic of the individuals to whom 
they belonged, than those of Laud and Strafford, as they still remain j. v^r- 
trayed by the most skilful hand of that age. The mean forehead, the pinched 
features, the peering eyes, of the prelate, suit admirably with his disposition. 
They mark him out as a lower kind of Saint Dominic, — differing from ihe 
fierce and gloomy enthusiast who founded the Inquisition, as we might 
•magine the familiar imp of a spiteful witch to differ from an archangel of 
darkness. When we read his judgments, — when we read the report which 
he drew up, setting forth that he had sent some separatists to prison, and 
imploring the royal aid against others,— we feel a movement of indignation. 
Wc turn to his Diary, and we are at once as cool as contempt can make 
us. There we learn how his picture fell down, and how fearful he was lest 
the fall sho'M be an omen : how he dreamed that the Duke of Buckingham 
came to W^ to him, — that King James walked past him, — that he saw 
Thomas Flaxage in green garments, and the Bishop of Worcester with his 
sViOulders wrapped in linen. In the early part of 1627, the sleep of this great 
ornament of the Church seems to have been much disturbed. On the fifth of 
January, he saw a merry old man with a wrinkled countenance, named Grove, 
lying on the ground. On the fourteenth of the same memorable month he 
»r w the Bishop of Lincoln jump on a horse wad ride away, A day or two 


after this he dreamed that he gave the king drink in a silver cup, and that the 
king refused it, and called for a glass. Then he dreamed that he had turned 
Papist ; — of all his dreams the only one, we suspect, which came through the 
gate of horn. But of these visions, our favourite is that which, as he has re- 
corded, he enjoyed on the night of Friday, the ninth of February, 1627. *' I 
dreamed," says he, *' that I had the scurvy ; and that forthwith all my teeth 
became loose. There was one in especial in my lower jaw, which I could 
scarcely keep in with my finger till 1 had called for help. " Here was a man 
to have the superintendence of the opinions of a great nation ! 

But Wentworth, — who ever names him without thinking of those harsh, dark 
features, ennobled by their expression into more than the majesty of an antique 
Jupiter ; — of that brow, that eye, that cheek, that lip, wherein, as in a 
chronicle, are written the events of many stormy and disastrous years, — high 
enterprise accomplished, frightful dangers braved, power unsparingly exercised, 
suffering unshrinkingly borne ; — of that fixed look, so full of severity, of 
mournful anxiety, of deep thought, of dauntless lesolution, which seems at 
once to forbode and to defy a terrible fate, as it lowers om us from the living 
canvas of Vandyke ? Even at this day the haughty earl overawes posterity 
as he overawed his contemporaries, and excites the same interest when 
arraigned before the tribunal of history which he excited at the bar of the 
House of Lords. In spite of ourselves, we sometimes feel towards his 
memory a certain relenting similar to that relenting which his defence, as Sir 
John Denham tells us, produced in Westminster Hall. 

This great, brave, bad man entered the House of Commons at the same 
time with Hampden and took the same side with Hampden. Both were 
among the richest and most powerful commoners in the kingdom. Both 
were equally distinguished by force of character, and by personal courage. 
Hampden had more judgment and sagacity than Wentworth. But no orator 
of that time equalled Wentworth in force and brilliancy of expression. In 1626 
both these eminent men were committed to prison by the king ; Wentworth, 
who was among the leaders of the Opposition, on account of his parliamentary 
conduct ; Hampden, who had not as yet taken a prominent part in debate, for 
refusing to pay taxes illegally imposed. 

Here their path separated. After the death of Buckingham, the king 
attempted to seduce some of the chiefs of the Opposition from their party j 
and Wentworth was among those who yielded to the seduction. He aban- 
doned his associates, and hated them ever after with the deadly hatred of a 
renegade. High titles and great employments were heaped upon him. He 
became Earl of Strafford, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, President of the Council 
of the North ; and he employed all his power for the purpose of crushing 
those liberties of which he had been the most distinguished champion. His 
counsels respecting public affairs were fierce and arbitrary. His correspondence 
with Laud abundantly proves that government without parliaments, govern- 
ment by the sword, was his favourite scheme. He was unwilling even that 
the course of justice between man and man should be unrestrained by the 
royal prerogative. He grudged to the Court of King's Bench and Common 
Pleas even that measure of liberty which the most absolute of the Bourbons 
allowed to the Parliaments of France. 

In Ireland, where he stood jn the place of the king, liis practice was in 
strict accordance with his theory. He set up the authority of the executive 
government over that of the courts of law. He permitted no person to leave 
the island without his licence. He established vast monopolies for his own 
private benefit. He imposed taxes arbitrarily. He levied them by military 
orce. Some of his acts are described even by the partial Clarendon as 


powerful acts, — acts which marked a nature excessively imperious, — acts 
which caused dislike and terror in sober and dispassionate persons, — high 
acts of oppression. Upon a most frivolous charge, he obtained a capital 
sentence from a court-martial against a man of high rank who had given him 
offence. He debauched the daughter-in-law of the Lord Chancellor of Ire- 
land, and then commanded that nobleman to settle his estate according to the 
wishes of the lady. The Chancellor refused. The Lord Lieutenant turned 
him out of office, and threw him into prison. When the violent acts of the 
Long Parliament are blamed, let it not be forgotten from what a tyranny they 
rescued the nation. 

Among the humbler tools of Charles were Chief Justice Finch and Noy 
the Attorney-General. Noy had, like Wentworth, supported the cause of 
liberty in Parliament, and had, like Wentworth, abandoned that cause for 
the sake of office. He devised, in conjunction with Finch, a scheme of ex* 
action which made the alienation of the people from the throne complete. A 
writ was issued by the king, commanding the city of London to equip and 
man ships of war for his service. Similar writs were sent to the towns along 
the coast. These measures, though they were direct violations of the Petition 
of Right, had at least some show of precedent in their favour. But, after 
a time, the government took a step for which no precedent could be pleaded, 
and sent writs of Ship-money to the inland counties. This was a stretch o! 
power on which Elizabeth herself had not ventured, even at a time when all 
laws might with propriety have been made to bend to that highest law, the 
safety of the state. The inland counties had not been required to furnish 
ships, or money in the room of ships, even when the Armada was approaching 
our shores. It seemed intolerable that a prince who, by assenting to the 
Petition of Right, had relinquished the power of levying Ship-money even in 
the out-ports, should be the first to levy it on parts of the kingdom where it 
had been unknown under the most absolute of his predecessors. 

Clarendon distinctly admits that this tax was intended, not only for the 
support of the navy, but "for a spring and magazine that should have no 
bottom, and for an everlasting supply of all occasions." The nation weli 
understood this ; and from one end of England to the other the public min4". 
was strongly excited. 

Buckinghamshire was assessed at a ship of four hundred and fifty tons, o: 
a sum of four thousand five hundred pounds. The share of the tax whici 
fell to Hampden was very small ; so small, indeed, that the sheriff wis 
blamed for setting so wealthy a man at so low a rate. But, though the sum 
demanded was a trifle, the principle of demand was despotism. Ilampden, 
after consulting the most eminent constitutional lawyers of the time, refured 
to pay the few shillings at which he was assessed, and determined to incur ill 
the certain expense, and the probable danger, of bringing to a solemn 
hearing this great controversy between the people and the crown. " Till 
this time," says Clarendon, " he was rather of reputation in his own country 
thai of public discoui'se or fame in the kingdom ; but then he grew the argu- 
ment of all tongues, every man inquiring who and what he was that durst, 
at his own charge, support the liberty and prosperity of the kingdom. " 

Towards the close of the year 1636, this great cause came on in the Ex- 
chequer Chamber before all the judges of England. The leading counsel 
against the writ was the celebrated Oliver St. John, a man whose temper 
was melancholy, whose manners were reserved, and who was as yet little 
known in Westminster Hall, but whose great talents had not escaped the 
penetrating eye of Ilampden, The Attorney-General and Solicitor-General 
■ppeared for the Crown. 


The arguments of the counsel occupied many days ; and the Exchequer 
Chamber took a considerable time for deliberation. The opinion of the bench 
was divided. So clear was the law in favour of Hampden that, though the 
judges held their situations only during the royal pleasure, the majority 
against him was the least possible. Four of the twelve pronounce:, in his 
favour ; a fifth took a middle course. The remaining seven gave their voices 
or the writ. 

The only effect of tliis decision was to make the public indignation stronger 
and deeper. •*The judgment," says Clarendon, *' proved of more advantage 
and credit to the gentleman condemned than to the king's service." The 
courage which Hampden had shown on this occasion, as the same historian 
tells us, *' raised his reputation to a great height generally throughout the 
kingdom." Even courtiers and crown-lawyers spoke respectfully of him. " His 
carriage," says Clarendon, '* throughout that agitation, was with that rare 
temper and modesty, that they who watched him narrowly to find some advan- 
tage against his person to make him less resolute in his cause, were compelled 
to give him a just testimony." But his demeanour, though it impressed Lord 
Falkland with the deepest respect, — though it drew forth the praises of Soli- 
citor-General Herbert, — omy kindled into a fiercer flame the ever-burning 
hatred of Strafford. That minister, in his letters to Laud, murmured against 
the lenity with which Hampden was treated. "In good faith," he wrote, 
" were such men rightly served, they should be whipped into their right wits.'* 
Again, he says, *' I still wish Mr. Hampden, and others to his likeness, were 
well whipped into their right senses. And if the rod be so used that it smart 
not, I am the more sorry." 

The person of Hampden was now scarcely safe. His prudence and moder- 
ation had hitherto disappointed those who would gladly have had a pretence 
for sending him to the prison of Eliot. But he knew that the eye, of a tyrant 
v/as on him. In the year 1637 mi\government had reached its height. Eight 
years had passed without a Parliament. The decision of the Exch^^quer 
Chamber had placed at the disposal of the Crown the whole property of the 
English people. About the time at which that decision was pronounced, 
Prynne, Bast wick, and Burton were mutilated by the sentence of the Star 
Chamber, and sent to rot in remote dungeons. The estate and the person of 
every man who had opposed the Court were at its mercy. 

Hampden determined to leave England. Beyond the Atlantic Ocean, a few 
of the persecuted Puritans had formed, in the wilderness of Connecticut, a set- 
tlement which has since become a prosperous commonwealth, and which, in 
spite of the lapse of time, and of the change of government, still retains some- 
thing of the character given to it by its first founders. Lord Saye and Lord 
Brooke were the original projectors of this scheme of emigration. Hampden 
had been early consulted respecting it. He was now, it appears, desirous to 
withdraw himself beyond the reach of oppressors who, as he probably sus- 
pected, and as we know, were bent on punishing his manful resistance to their 
tyranny. He was accompanied by his kinsman Oliver Cromwell, over whorr 
he possessed great influence, and in whom alone he had discovered, under an 
exterior appearance of coarseness and extravagance, those great and command- 
ing talents which were afterwards the admiration and the dread of Europe. 

The cousins took their passage in a vessel which lay in the Thames, and 
which was bound for North America. They were actually on board when an 
order of council appeared, by which the ship was prohibited from sailing. 
Seven other ships, filled with emigrants, were stopped at the same time. 

Hampden and Cromwell remained ; and with them remained the Evil 
Genius of the House of Stuart. The tide of pubJic affairs was even now ofip 


«a— — 

the turn. The king had resolved to change the ecclesiastical constitution of 
Scotland, and to introduce into the public worship of that kingdom ceie- 
monies which the great body of the Scots regarded as popish. This absurd 
attempt produced first discontents, then riots, and at length open rebellion. 
A provisional government was established at Edinburgh, and its authority 
was obeyed throughout the kingdom. This government raised an army, ap- 
pointed a general, and called a general assembly of the Kirk. The famous 
instrument called the Covenant was put forth at this time, and was eagerly 
subscribed by the people. 

The beginnings of this formidable insurrection were strangely neglected by 
the king and his advisers. But towards the close of the year 1638 the danger 
became pressing. An army was raised, and early in the following spring 
Charles marched northward at the head of a force sufficient, as it seemed, to 
reduce the Covenanters to submission. 

But Charles acted at this conjuncture as he acted at every important con* 
juncture throughout his life. After oppressing, threatening, and blustering, 
he hesitated and failed. He was bold in the wrong place, and timid in th« 
wrong place. He would have shown his wisdom by being afraid before the 
liturgy was read in St. Giles's church. He put off his fear till he had reached 
the Scottish border with his troops. Then, after a feeble campaign, he con- 
cluded a treaty with the insurgents, and withdrew his army. But the terms 
of the pacification were not observed. Each party charged the other with 
foul play. The Scots refused to disarm. The king found great difficulty 
in re-assembling his forces. His late expedition had drained his treasury. 
The revenues of the next year had been anticipated. At another time he 
might have attempted to make up the deficiency by illegal expedients ; but 
such a course v/ould clearly have been dangerous when part of the island was 
in rebellion. It was necessary to call a Parliament. After eleven years of 
suffering, the voice of the nation was to be heard once more. 

In April, 1640, the Parliament met ; and the king had another chance 
of conciliating his people. The new House of Commons was, beyond all 
comparison, the least refractory House of Commons that had been known 
for many years. Indeed, we have never been able to understand how, after 
so long a period of misgovernment, the representatives of the nation should 
have shown so moderate and so loyal a disposition. Clarendon speaks with 
admiration of their dutiful temper. "The house, generally," says he, "was 
exceedingly disposed to please the king, and to do him service." "It could 
never be hoped," he observes elsewhere, "that more sober or dispassionate 
men would ever meet together in that place, or fewer who brought ill pur- 
poses with them." 

In this Parliament Hampden took his seat as member for Buckinghamshire, 
and thenceforward, till the day of his death, gave himself up, with scarcely 
any intermission, to public affairs. He took lodgings in Gray's Inn Lane, 
near the house occupied by Pym, with whom he lived in habits of the closest 
intimacy. He was now decidedly the most popular man in England. The 
Opposition looked to him as their leader, and the servants of the king 
treated him with marked respect. Charles requested the Parliament to vote 
an immediate supply, and pledged his word that if they would gratify him in 
this request, he would afterwards give them time to represent their grievances 
to him. The grievances under which the nation suffered were so serious, and 
the royal word had been so shamefully violated, tliat the Commons could 
hardly be expected to comply with this request. During the first week of the 
session, the minutes of the proceedings against Hampden were laid on the 
table by Oliver St. John, and a committee reported that the case was matter 


- ■ "I V i - iH 

of grievance. The king sent a message to the Commons, offering, if they 
would vote him twelve subsidies, to give up the prerogative of Ship-money. 
Many years before, he had received five subsidies in consideration of his assent 
to the Petition of Right. By assenting to that petition, he had given up the 
right of levying Ship-money, if he ever possessed it. How he had observed 
the promises made to his third Parliament, all England l:new j and it was not 
strange that the Commons should be somewhat unwilling to buy from him, 
over and over again, their own ancient and undoubted inheritance. 

His message, however, was not unfavourably received. The Cowmons 
were ready to give a large supply ; but they were not disposed to give it in 
exchange for a prerogative of which they altogether denied the existence. If 
they acceded to the proposal of the king, they recognized the legality of the 
writs of Ship-money. 

Hampden, who was a greater master of parliamentary tactics than any 
man of his time, saw that this was the prevailing feeling, and availed himself 
of it with great dexterity. He moved that the question should be put, 
" Whether the House would consent to the proposition made by the king, as 
contained in the message." Hyde interfered, and proposed that the question 
should be divided ; — that the sense of the House should be taken merely on 
the point, "Supply or no supply;'* and that the manner and the amount 
should be left for subsequent consideration. 

The majority of the House was for granting a supply, but against granting 
it in the manner proposed by the king. If the House had divided on 
Hampden's question, the Court would have sustained a defeat ; if on Hyde's, 
the Court would have gained an apparent victory. Some members called for 
Hyde's motion, — others for Hampden's. In the midst of the uproar, the 
secretary of state. Sir Harry Vane, rose and stated that the supply would not 
be accepted unless it were voted according to the tenor of the message. Vane 
v/as supported by Herbert, the solicitor-general. Hyde's motion was, there- 
fore, no further pressed, and the debate on the general question was adjourned 
till the next day. 

On the next day the king came down to the House of Lords, and dis- 
solved the Parliament with an angry speech. His conduct on this occasion 
has never been defended by any of his apologists. Clarendon condemns it 
severely. ** No man," says he, ** could imagine what offence the Commons 
had given." The offence which they had given is plain. They had, indeed, 
behaved most temperately and most respectfully. But they had shown a 
disposition to redress wrongs and to vindicate the laws ; and this was enough 
to make them hateful to a king whom no law could bind, and whose whole 
government was one system of wrong. 

The nation received the intelligence of the dissolution with sorrow and 
indignation. The only persons to whom this event gare pleasure were those 
few discerning men who thought that the maladies of the state were beyond 
the reach of gentle remedies. OliverfSt. John's joy was too great for con- 
cealment. It lighted up his dark and melancholy features, and made him, 
for the first time, indiscreetly communicative. lie told Hyde that tilings 
mud be worse before they could be better, and that the dissolved Parliament 
wou%«l never have done all that was necessary. St. John, we think, was in 
the right. No good could then have been done by any Parliament which 
did not adopt as its great principle that no confidence could safely be placed 
in the king, and that, while he enjoyed more than the shadow of power, the 
nation would never enjoy more than the shadow of liberty. 

As soon as Charles had dismissed the Parliament, he. threw several members 
of the House of Commons into prison. Ship-money was exacted more rigoi* 


DuSly than ever ; and the mayor and sheriffs of London were prosecuted 
before the Star Chamber for slackness in levying it. Wentworth, it is said, 
observed with characteristic insolence and cruelty, that things would never go 
right till the aldermen were hanged. Large sums were raised by force on those 
counties in which the troops were quartered. All the wretched shifts of a 
beggared exchequer were tiied. Forced loans were rai:^,ed. Great quantities 
of goods were bouglit on long credit and sold for ready money. A scheme for 
debasing the currency was under consideration. At length, in August, the 
king again marched northward. 

The Scots advanced into England to meet him. It is by no means im- 
probable that this bold step was taken by the advice of Hampden, and of 
those with whom he acted ; and this has been made matter of grave accusation 
against the English Opposition. To call in the aid of foreigners in a domestic 
quarrel is the worst of treasons, it is said, and that the Puritan leaders, by 
taking this course, showed that they were regardless of the honour and 
independence of the nation, and anxious only for the success of their own 
faction. We are utterly unable to see any distinction between the case of the 
Scotch invasion in 1640 and the case of the Dutch invasion in 1688;— or, 
rather, we see distinctions which are to the advantage of Hampden and his 
friends. We believe Charles to have been, beyond all comparison, a worse 
and more dangerous king than his son. The Dutch were strangers to us, — 
the Scots a kindred people, speaking the same la^iguage, subjects of the same 
crown, not aliens in the eye of the law. If, indeed, it had been possible that 
a Scotch army or a Dutch army could have enslaved England, those who 
persuaded Leslie to cross the Tweed, and those who signed the invitation to 
the Prince of Orange, would have been traitors to their country. But such a 
result was out of the question. All that either a Scotch or a Dutch invasion 
could do was to give the public feeling of England an opportunity to show 
itself. Both expeditions would have ended in complete and ludicrous dis- 
comfiture, had Charles and James'been supported by their soldiers and their 
people. In neither case, therefore, was the independence of England 
endangered ; in both cases her liberties were preserved. 

The second campaign of Charles against the Scots was short and igno- 
minious. His soldiers, as soon as they saw the enemy, ran away as English 
soldiers have never run either before or since. It can scarcely be doubted that 
their flight was the effect, not of cowardice, but of disaffection. The four 
northern counties of England were occupied by the Scotch army, and the king 
retired to York. 

The game of tyranny was now up. Charles had risked and lost his last 
stake. It is impossible to retrace the mortifications and humiliations which 
this bad man now had to endure, without a feeling of vindictive pleasure. His 
army was mutinous; — his treasury was empty; — his people clamoured for a 
Parliament ; addresses and petitions against the government were presented. 
Strafford was for shooting those who presented them by martial law: but the 
king could not trust the soldiers. A great council of Peers was called at York ; 
but the king could uot trust even the Peers. He struggled, he evaded, he 
hesitated, he tried every shift, rather than again face the representatives of his 
injure<3 people. At length no shift was left> He made a truce with the Scots, 
and summoned a Parliament. 

The leaders of the popular party had, after the late dissolution, remained io 
London for the purpose of organizing a scheme of opposition to the Court, 
They now exertea themselves to the utmost. Hampden, in particular, rodo 
from county to county, exhorting the electors to give their votes to men 
worthy of their confidence. The great majority of the returns was on th« 


— — ;. ■ ' "W 

side of the Opposition. Hampden was himself chosen member both for 
Wendover and Buckinghamshire. He made his election to serve for the 

On the third of November, 1640, — a day to be long remembered, — met that 
great Parliament, destined to every extreme of fortune, — to empire and to 
servitude, — to glory and to contempt ; — at one time the sovereign of its so- 
rereign, — at another time the servant of its servants, and the tool of its tools. 
From the first day of meeting the attendance was great ; and the aspect of 
the members was that of men not disposed to do the work negligently. The 
dissolution of the late Parliament had convinced most of them that half 
measures would no longer suffice. Clarendon tells us, that '* the same men 
who, six months before, were observed to be of very moderate tempers, and 
to wish that gentle remedies might be applied, talked now in another dialedr 
taoth of kings and persons ; and said that they must now be of another tempei 
than they were the last Parliament." The debt of vengeance was swollen by 
all the usury which had been accumulating during many years ; and payment 
was made to the full. 

This memorable crisis called forth parliamentary abilities such as England 
had never before seen. Among the most distinguished members of the House 
of Commons were Falkland, Hyde, Digby, young Harry Vane, OHver St. 
John, Denzil Hollis, Nathaniel Fiennes. But two men exercised a paramount 
influence over the legislature and the country, — Pym and Hampden ; and by 
the universal consent of friends and enemies, the first place belonged to 

On occasions which required set speeches Pym generally took the lead. 
Hampden very seldom rose till late in a debate. His speaking was of that 
kind which has, in every age, been held in the highest estimation by English 
Parliaments, — ready, weighty, perspicuous, condensed. Mis perception of the 
feelings of the House was exquisite, — his temper unalterably placid — his 
manner eminently courteous and gentlemanlike. '* Even with those," says 
Clarendon, "who were able to preserve themselves from his infusions, and who 
discerned those opinions to be fixed in him with which they could not comply, 
he always left the character of an ingenious and conscientious person." His 
talents for business were as remarkable as his talents for debate. *' He was," 
says Clarendon, "of an industry and vigilance not to be tired out or wearied 
by the most laborious, and of parts not to be imposed upon by the most 
subtle and sharp." Yet it was rather to his moral than to his intellectual 
qualities that he was indebted for the vast influence which he possessed. 
*' When this parliament began," — we again quote Clarendon, — "the eyes of 
all men were fixed upon him, as their patricz pater, and the pilot that must 
steer the vessel through the tempests and rocks which threatened it. And I 
am persuaded his power and interest at that time were greater to do good or 
hurt than any man's in the kingdom, or than any man of his rank hath bad in 
any time ; for his reputation of honesty Vi?as universal, and his affections 
seemed so publicly guided, that no corrupt or private ends could bias them. 
• . . He was, indeed, a very wise man, and of great parts, and possessed 
with the most absolute spirit of popularity, and the most absolute faculties ta 
govern the people, of any man I ever knew." 

It is sufficient to recapitulate shortly the acts of the Long Parliament during 
its first session. Sirafford and Laud were impeached and im]->risoned. Strafford 
was afterwards attainted by bill, and executed. Lord Keeper Finch iied to 
Holland, Secretary Windebank to France. All those whom the king had, 
during the last twelve years, employed for the oppression of his people, — from 
the servile judges who had pronounced in favour of the crown against Hampden 


down to the sheriffs who had distrained for Ship-money, and the custom 
house oflicers who had levied tonnage and poundage, — were summoned to 
answer for their conduct. The Star Chamber, the High Commission Court, 
the Council of York, were abolished. Those unfortunate victims of Laud 
who, after undergoing ignominious exposure and cruel manglings, hac been 
sent to languish in distant prisons, were set at liberty, and conducted th rough 
t-ondon in triumphant procession. The king was compelled to g'-'e the 
fudges patents for life or during good behaviour. He was deprived of those 
oppressive powers which were the last relics of the old feudal tenures. The 
Forest Courts and the Stannary Courts were reformed. It was provided that 
the Parliament then sitting should not be prorogued or dissolved without its 
own consent, and that a Parliament should be held at least once every three 

Many of these measures Lord Clarendon allows to have been most salutary; 
and few persons will, in our times, deny that, in the laws passed during this 
session, the good greatly preponderated over the evil. The abolition of those 
three hateful courts, — the Northern Council, the Star Chamber, and the High 
Commission, would alone entitle the Long Parliament to the lasting gratitude 
of Englishmen. 

The proceeding against Strafford undoubtedly seems hard to people living in 
our days. It would probably have seemed merciful and moderate to people 
living in the sixteenth century. It is curious to compare the trial of Cliarles's 
minister with the trial, if it can be so called, of Lord Sudley, in the blessed 
reign of Edward VI. None of the great reformers of our Church doubted the 
propriety of passing an act of Parliament, for cutting off Lord Sudley's head 
without a legal conviction. The pious Cranmer voted for that act ; the pious 
Latimer preached for it ; the pious Edward returned thanks for it ; and all the 
pious Lords of the council together exhorted their victim to what they were 
pleased facetiously to call *' the quiet and patient suffering of justice." 

But it is not necessary to defend the proceedings against Strafford by any such 
comparison. They are justified, in our opinion, by that which alone justifies 
capital punishment or any punishment, — by that' which alone justifies war, — 
by the public danger. That there is a certain amount of public danger which 
will justify a legislature in sentencing a man to death by an ex post facto law, 
few people, we suppose, will deny. Few people, for example, will deny that 
the French Convention was perfectly justified in placing Robespierre, St. Just, 
and Couthon hors la lot without a trial. This proceeding differed from the pro* 
teeding against Strafford only in being much more rapid and violent. Straflford 
i/as fully heard. Robespierre was not suffered to defend himself. Was there, 
then, in the case of Strafford, a danger sufficient to justify an act of attainder? 
We believe that there was. We believe that the contest in which the Parlia- 
ment was engaged against the king was a contest for the security of our pro- 
perty, — for the liberty of our persons, — for every thing which makes us to differ 
from the subjects of Don Miguel. We believe that the cause of the Commons 
was such as justified them in resisting the king, in raising an army, in sending 
thousands of brave men to kill and to be killed. An act of attainder is surely 
not more a departure from the ordinary course of law than a civil war. An act 
of attainder produces much less suffering than a civil war. We are, therefore, 
unable to discover on what principle it can be maintained that a cause which 
justifies a civil war will not justify an act of attainder. 

Many specious arguments have been urged against the ex post facto law by 
which Strafford was condemned to death. But all these arguments proceed oil 
the supposition that the crisis was an ordinary crisis. The attainder was, in 
truth, a revolutionary measure. It was part of a system of resiatunge whicb 


oppression had rendered necessary. It is as unjust to judge of the conduct 
pursued by the Long Parliament towards Strafford on ordinary principles, as it 
M'ould have been to indict Fairfax for murder because he cut down a cornet at 
Naseby. From the day on which the houses met there was a war waged by 
them against the king, — a war for all that they held dear, — a war carried on at 
first by means of parliamentary forms, — at last by physical force ; and, as in the 
second stage of that war, so in the first, they were entitled to dc many things 
which, in quiet times, would have been culpable. 

We must not omit to mention that those men who were afterwards ♦''*« 
most distinguished ornaments of the king's party supported the bill of attainder. 
It is almost certain that Hyde voted for it. It is quite certain that Falkland 
both voted and spoke for it. The opinion of Hampden, as far as it can be 
collected from a very obscure note of one of his speeches, seems to have bee/ 
that the proceeding by bill was unnecessary, and that it would be a bettcs. 
course to obtain judgment on the impeachment. 

During this year the court opened a negotiation with the leaders of the 
Opposition. The Earl of Bedford was invited to form an administration on 
popular principles. St. John was made solicitor-general. Hollis was to have 
been secretary of state, and Pym chancellor of the exchequer. The post ol 
tutor to the Prince of Wales was designed for Hampden. The death of the 
Earl of Bedford prevented this arrangement from being carried into effect ; and 
it may be doubted whether, even if that nobleman's life had been prolonged, 
Charles would ever have consented to surround himself with counsellors whom 
he could not but hate and fear. 

Lord Clarendon admits that the Qonduct of Hampden during this year was 
mild and temperate, — that he seemed disposed rather to soothe than to excite 
the public mind, and that, when violent and unreasonable motions were made 
by his followers, he generally left the House before the division, lest he should 
seem to give countenance to their extravagance. His temper was moderate. 
He sincerely loved peace. He felt also great fear lest too precipitate a move- 
ment should produce a reaction. The events which took place early in the 
next session clearly showed that this fear was not unfounded. 

During the autumn the Parliament adjourned for a few weeks. Before the 
recess, Hampden was despatched to Scotland by the House of Commons, 
nominally as a commissioner, to obtain security for a debt which the Scots had 
contracted during the late invasion ; but in truth that he might keep watch 
over the king, who had now repaired to Edinburgh, for the purpose of finally 
adjusting the points of difference which remained between him and his northern 
subjects. It was the business of Hampden to dissuade the Covenanters from 
making their peace with the Court, at the expense of the popular party in 

While the kmg was in Scotland the Irish rebellion broke out. The sud- 
denness and violence of this terrible explosion excited a strange suspicion in 
the public mind. The queen was a professed Papist. The king and the 
Archbishop of Canterbury had not indeed been reconciled to the see of Rome; 
but they had, while towards the Puritan party with the utmost rigour, 
and speaking of that party with the utmost contempt, shown great tenderness 
and respect towards the Catholic religion and its professors. In spite of th? 
wishes of successive Parliaments, the Protestant separatists had been cruelly 
persecuted. And at the same time, in spite of the wishes of those very 
Parliaments, the laws — the unjust and wicked laws — which were in force 
against the Papists had not been carried into execution. The Protestant 
nonconformists had not yet learned toleration in the school of suffering. 
They reprobated the partial lenity which the government showed towards 


idolaters, and, with some show of reason, ascribed to bad motives coi>. 
)!uct which, in such a king as Charles, and such a prelate as Laud, could not 
possibly be ascribed to humanity or to liberality of sentiment. The violent 
Arminianism of the archbishop, — his childish attachment to ceremonies, 
his superstitious veneration for altars, vestments, and painted windows, his 
bigoted zeal for the Constitution and the privileges of his order, his known 
opinions respecting the celibacy of the clergy, — had excited great disgust 
throughout that larg^ party which was every day becoming more and more 
hostile to Rome, and more and more inclined to the doctrines and the dis- 
cipHne of Geneva. It was believed by many that the Irish rebellion had been 
secretly encouraged by the court ; and, when the Parliament met again in 
November, after a short recess, the Puritans were more intractable than ever. 
But that which Hampden had feared had come to pass. A reaction had 
taken place. A large body of moderate and well-meaning men, who had 
heartily concurred in the strong measures adopted during the preceding year, 
were inclined to pause. Their opinion was that, during many years, the 
country had been grievously misgoverned, and that a great reform had been 
necessary ; — but that a great reform had been made, — that the grievances of 
the nation had been fi3ly redressed, — that sufficient vengeance had been 
exacted for the past, that sufficient security had been provided for the future, — 
and that it would, therefore, be both ungrateful and unwise to make any 
further attacks on the royal prerogative. In support of this opinion many 
plausible arguments have been used. But to all these arguments there is one 
short answer. — The king could not be trusted. 

At the head of those who may be called the Constitutional Royalists were 
Falkland, Hyde, and Culpeper. All these eminent men had, durhig the 
former year, been in very decided opposition to the court. In some of those 
very proceedings with which their admirers reproach Hampden, they had, 
taken at least as great a part as Hampden. They had all been concerned 
in the impeachment of Strafford. They had all, there is reason to believe, 
\ oted for the Bill of Attainder. Certamly none of them voted against it. 
They had all agreed to the act which made the consent of the Parliament 
necessary to its own dissolution or prorogation. Hyde had been among the 
most active of those who attacked the Council of York. Falkland had voted 
for the exclusion of the bishops from the Upper House. They were now in- 
clined to halt in the path of reform, perhaps to retrace a few of their steps. 

A direct collision soon took place between the two parties into which the 
House of Commons, lately at almost perfect unity with itself, was now 
divided. The opponents of the government moved that celebrated address 
to the king which is known by the name of the Grand Remonstrance. In 
this address all the oppressive acts of the preceding fifteen years were set 
forth with great energy of language ; and, in conclusion, the king was en- 
treated to employ no ministers in whom the Parliament could not confide. 

The debate on the Remonstrance was long and stormy. It commenced 
at nine in the morning of the 21st of November, and lasted till after 
midnight. The division showed that a great change had taken place in the 
temper of the House. Though many members had retired from exhaustion, 
three hundred voted ; and the Remonstrance was carried by a majority of 
only nine. A violent debate followed, on the question whether the minority 
should be allowed to protest against this decision. The excitement was so 
great that several members were on the point of proceeding to personal vio- 
lence. ** We had sheathed our swords in each other's bowels," says an eye- 
witness, "had not the sagacity and great calmness of Mr. Hampden, by a 
ihort speech, prevented it," The House did not rise till two in the morning. 



The situation of the Puritan leaders was now difficult and full of periL The 
small majority which they still had might soon become a minority. Out of 
doors, their supporters in the higher and middle classes were begin.tiing to 
fall off. There was a growing opinion that the king had been hardly used. 
The English are always inclined to side with a weak party which is in the 
wrong, rather than with a strong party which is in the right. Even the idlers 
in the street will not suffer a man to be struck down. And as it is with a 
boxing-match, sq it is with a political contest. Thus it was that a violent 
reaction took place in favour of Charles II. against the Whigs in i68i. Thus 
it was that an equally violent reaction took place in favour of George III. 
against thie coalition in 1784. A similar reaction was beginning to take place 
during the second year of the Long Parliament. Some members of the 
Opposition *'had resumed," says Clarendon, "their old resolution of leaving 
.the kingdom." Oliver Cromwell openly declared that he and many others 
would have emigrated if they had been left in a minority on the question of 
the Remonstrance. 

Charles had now a last chance of regaining the affection of his people. If 
he could have resolved to give his confidence to the leaders of the moderate 
party in the House of Commons, and to regulate his proceedings by their 
advice, he might have been, not, indeed, as he had been, a despot, but the 
powerful and respected king of a free people. The nation might have en- 
joyed liberty and repose under a government with Falkland at its head, 
checked by a constitutional Opposition under the conduct of Hampden. It 
was not necessary that, in order to accomplish this happy end, the king 
should sacrifice any part of his lawful prerogative, or submit to any conditions 
inconsistent with his dignity. It was necessary only that he should abstain 
from treachery, from violence, from gross breaches of the law. Thi^ was all 
that the nation was then disposed to require of him And even this was 
too much. 

For a short time he seemed inclined to take a wise and temperate course. 
He resolved to make Falkland secretary of state, and Culpeper chancellor 
of the exchequer. He declared his intention of conferring in a short time 
some important office on Hyde. He assured these three persons that he 
would do nothing relating to the House of Commons without their joint 
advice, and that he would communicate all his designs to them in the most 
unreserved manner. This resolution, had he adhered to it, would have 
averted many years of blood and mourning. But "in very few days," says 
Clarendon, "he did fatally swerve from it." 

On the 3rd of January, 1642, without giving, the slightest hint of his in- 
tention to those advisers whom he had solemnly promised to consult, he sent 
down the attorney-general to impeach Lord Kimbolton, Hampden, Pym, 
Hollis, and two other members of the House of Commons, at the bar of the 
Lords, on a charge of high treason. It is difficult to find in the whole 
history of England such an instance of tyranny, perfidy, and folly. The 
most precious and ancient rights of the subject were violated by this act. 
The only way in which Hampden and Pj^-m could legally be tried for treason 
at the suit of the king, was by a petty jury on a bill found by a grand jury. 
The attorney.general had no right to impeach them. The House of Lords 
had no right to try them. 

The Commons refused to surrender their members. The Peers showed 
no inclination to usurp the unconstitutional jurisdiction which the king 
attempted to force on them. A contest began, in which violence and weak- 
ness were on the one side, law and resolution on the other. Charles sent 
an officer to tf'sul Up the liodgings and trunks of the accusfe\i membens. The* 


Commons sent their sergeant to break the seals. The tyrant resolved to 
follow up one outrage by another. In making the charge, he had struck at 
the institution of juries. In executing the arrest, he struck at the privileges 
of Parliament. He resolved to go to the House in person, with an armed 
force, and there to seize the leaders of the Opposition, v/hile engaged in the 
discharge of their parliamentary duties. 

What was his purpose ? Is it possible to believe that he had no definite 
purpose, — that he took the most important step of his whole reign without 
having for one moment considered what might ba its effects ? Is it possible 
to believe that he went merely for the purpose of making himself a laughing- 
stock, — that he intended, if he had found the accused members, and if they 
had refused, as it was their right and duty to refuse, the submission which 
he illegally demanded, to leave the House without bringing them away? If 
we reject both these suppositions, we must believe, — and we certainly do 
believe, — that he went fully determined to carry his unlawful design into effect 
by violence ; and, if necessary, to shed the bioud of the chiefs of the Oppo- 
sition on the very floor of the Parliament House. 

Lady Carlisle conveyed intelligence of the design to Pym. The five members 
had time to withdraw before the arrival of Charles. They left the House as 
he was entering New Palace Yard. He was accompanied by about two 
hundred halberdiers of his guard, and by many gentlemen of the court armed 
with swords. He walked up Westminster Hall. At the southern door of that 
vast building his attendants divided to the right aud left, and formed a lane to 
the door of the House of Commons. He knocked, — entered, — darted a look 
towards the place which Pym usually occupied, and, seeing it empty, walked 
up to the table. The Speaker fell on his knee. The members rose and 
uncovered their heads in profound silence, and the king took his seat in 
the chair. He looked round the House. But the five members were nowhere 
to be seen. He interipgated the Speaker. The Speaker answered, that he 
was merely the organ of the House, and had neither eyes to see, nor tongue 
to speak, but according to their direction. The baffled tyrant muttered a few 
feeble sentences about his respect for the laws of the realm, and the privileges 
of Parliament, and retired. As he passed along the benches, several resolute 
voices called out audibly — "Privilege ! " He returned to Whitehall with his 
company of bravoes, who, while he was in the House, had been impatiently 
v/aiting in the lobby for the word, cocking their pistols, and crying *' Fall 
on." That night he put forth a proclamation, directing that the posts should 
be stopped, and that no person should, at his peril, venture to harbour the 
accused members. 

Hampden and his friends had taken refuge in Coleman Street. The ,city 
of London was indeed the fastness of public liberty, and was, in those times, 
a place of at least as much importance as Paris during the French Revolution. 
The city, properly so called, now copsists in a great measure of immense 
warehouses and counting-houses, which are frequented by traders and their 
clerks during the day, and left in almost total solitude during the night. It 
was then closely inhabited by three hundred thousand persons, to whom it was 
not merely a place of business, but a place of constant residence. This great 
body had as complete a civil and military organization as if it had been 
an independent republic. Each citizen had his company ; and the com- 
panies, which now seem to exist only for the delectation of epicures and of 
antiquaries, were then formidable brotherhoods, the members of which were 
almost as closely bound together as the members of a Highland clan. How 
btrong these artificial ties were, the numerous and valuable legacies anciently 
bequeathed by citizens to their corpwations abundantly prove. The muni« 


cipal offices were filled by the most opulent and respectable merchants of the 
kingdom. The pomp of the magistracy of the capital was inferior only to 
that which surrounded the person of the sovereign. The Londoners loved 
their city with that patriotic love which is found only in small communities, 
like those of ancient Greece, or like those which arose in Italy during the 
middle ages. The numbers, the intelligence, the wealth of the citizens, the 
democratical form of their local government, and their vicinity to the court 
and to the Parliament, made them one of the most formidable bodies in the 
kingdom. Even as soldiers they were not to be despised. In an age in 
which war is a profession, there is something ludicrous in the idea of bat- 
talions composed of apprentices and shopkeepers, and officered by aldermen. 
But, in the early part of the seventeenth century, there was no standing army 
in the island ; and the militia of the metropolis was not inferior in training 
to the militia of other places. A city which could furnish many thousands 
of armed men, abounding in natural courage, and not absolutely untinctured 
with military discipline, was a formidable auxiliary in times of internal 
dissension. On several occasions during the civil war, the trainbands of 
London distinguished themselves highly ; and at the battle of Newbury, in 
particular, they repelled the fiery onset of Rupert, and saved the army of the 
Parliament from destruction. 

The people of this great city had long been thoroughly devoted to the 
national cause. Great numbers of them had signed a protestation in which 
they declared their resolution to defend the privileges of Parliament. Their 
enthusiasm had of late begun to cool. But the impeachment of the five 
members, and the insult offered to the House of Commons, inflamed them 
to fury. Their houses, their purses, their pikes, were at the command 
of the Commons. London was in arms all night. The next day the shops 
were closed ; the streets were filled with immense crowds. The multitude 
pressed round the king's coach, and insulted h^m with opprobrious cries. 
The House of Commons, in the meantime, appointed a committee to sit 
in the city, for the purpose of inquiring into the circjimstances of the late 
outrage. The members of the committee were welcomed by a deputation of 
the common council. Merchant Tailors' Hall, Goldsmiths' Hall, and Grocers' 
Hall, were fitted up for their sittings. A guard of respectable citizens, duly 
relieved twice a day, was posted at their doors. The sheriffs were charged 
to watch over the safety of the accused members, and to escort them to and 
from the committee with every mark of honour. 

A violent and sudden revulsion of feeling, both in the House and out of it, 
was the effect of the late proceedings of the king. The Opposition regained 
in a few hours all the ascendency which it had lost. The Constitutional 
Royalists were filled with shame and sorrow. They felt that they had been 
cmelly deceived by Charles. They saw that they were unjustly, but not un- 
reasonably, suspected by the nation. Clarendon distinctly says that they per- 
fectly detested the counsels by which the king had been guided, and were 
so much displeased and dejected at the. unfair manner in which he had treated 
them that they were inclined to retire from his service. During the debates 
on the subject they preserved a melancholy silence. To this day the advocate v 
of Charles take care to say as little as they can about his visit to the House of 
Commons, and, when they cannot avoid mention of it, attribute to infatua.tion 
an ^ict which, on any other supposition, they must admit to have been a 
frightful crima . 

The Commons, in a few days, openly defied the king, and ordered the 
accused members to attend in their places at Westminster and to resume 
their parliamentary duties. The citizens resolved to bring back the champions 


of liberty in triumph before the windows of Whitehall. Vast preparations 
were made by land and water for this great festival. 

The king had remained in his palace, humbled, dismayed, and bewildered, 
** feeling," says Clarendon, "the trouble and agony which usually attend 
generous and magnanimous minds upon their having committed errors ;" 
feeling, we should say, the despicable repentance which attends the bungling 
rillain who, having attempted to commit a crime, finds that he has only com- 
mitted a folly. The populace hooted and shouted all day before the gates of 
the royal residence. The wretched man could not bear to see the triumph 
of those whom he had destined to the gallows and the quartering-block. On 
the day preceding that which was fixed for their return, he fled, with a few 
attendants, from that palace which he was never to see again till he was led 
through it to the scaffold. 

On the nth of January the Thames was covered with boats, and its 
shores with the gazing multitude. Armed vessels, decorated with streamers, 
were ranged in two lines from London Bridge to Westminster Hall. The 
members returned by water in a ship manned by sailors who had volun- 
teered their services. The trainbands of the city, under the command of the 
sheriffs, marched along the Strand, attended by a vast crowd of spectators, 
to guard the avenues to the House of Commons ; and thus, with shouts and 
loud discharges of ordnance, the accused patriots were brought back by the 
people whom they had served and for whom they had suffered. The restored 
members, as soon as they had entered the House, expressed, in the warmest 
terms, their gratitude to the citizens of London. The sheriffs were warmly 
thanked by the Speaker in the name of the Commons ; and orders were given 
that a guard selected from the trainbands of the city should attend daily to 
watch over the safety of the Parliament. 

The excitement had not been confined to London. When intelligence of 
the danger to which Hampden was exposed reached Buckinghamshire, it 
excited the alarm and indignation of the people. Four thousand freeholders 
of that county, each of them wearing in his hat a copy of the protestation in 
favour of the privileges of Parliament, rode up to London to defend the person 
of their beloved representative. They came in a body to assure Parliament 
of their full resolution to defend its privileges. Their petition was couched in 
the strongest terms. " In respect," said they, "of that latter attempt upon 
the honourable House of Commons, we are now come to offer our service to 
that end, and resolved, in their just defence, to live and die." 

A great struggle was clearly at hand. Hampden had returned to West- 
minster much changed. His influence had hitherto been exerted rather to 
restrain than to excite the zeal of his party. But the treachery, the contempt 
of law, the thirst for blood, which the king had now shown, left no hope of a 
peaceable adjustment. It was clear that Charles must be either a puppet or a 
tyrant, — that no obligation of love or of honour could bind him, — and that 
the only way to make him harmless was to make him powerless. 

The attack which the king had made on the five members was not merely 
irregular in manner. Even if the charges had been preferred legally, if the 
Grand Jury of Middlesex had found a true bill, if the accused persons had 
been arrested under a proper warrant and at a proper time and place, there 
would still have been in the proceeding enough of perfidy and injustice to 
vindicate the strongest measures which the Opposition could take. To im- 
peach Pym and Hampden was to impeach the House of Commons. It was 
notoriously on account of what they had done as members of that House that 
they were selected as objects of vengeance ; and in what they had done as 
members of that House the majority had concurred. Most of the charges 


- — — „ ■ - ■ i «<i i 

brought against them were common between them and the Parliament. They 
were accused, indeed, and it may be with reason, of encouraging the Scotch 
army to invade England. In doing this they had committed what was, in 
strictness of law, a high offence, — the same offence which Devonshire and 
Shrewsbury committed in 1688. But the king had promised pardon and 
oblivion to those who had been the principals in the Scotch insurrection. Did 
it then consist with his honour to punish the accessories ? He had bestowed 
marks of his favour on the leading Covenanters. He had given the great seal 
of Scotland to Lord Louden, the chief of the rebels, a marquisate to the Earl of 
Argyle, an earldom to Leslie, who had brought the Presbyterian army across 
the Tweed. On what principle was Hampden to be attainted for advising 
what Leslie was ennobled for doing? In a court of law, of course, no Eng- 
lishman could plead an amnesty granted to the Scots. But, though not an 
illegal, it was surely an inconsistent and a most unkingly course, after pardon- 
ing the heads of the rebellion in one kingdom, to hang, draw, and quarter 
their accomplices in another. 

The proceedings of the king against the five members, or rather against 
that Parliament which had concurred in almost all the acts of the five 
members, was the cause of the civil war. It was plain that either Charles or 
the House of Commons must be stripped of all real power in the state. The 
best course which the Commons could have taken would perhaps have 
been to depose the king, as their ancestors had deposed Edward II. and 
Richard II., and as their children afterwards deposed James. Had they 
done this, — had they placed on the throne a prince whose character and 
whose situation would have been a pledge for his good conduct, they might 
safely have left to that prince all the constitutional prerogatives of the Crown, 
the command of the armies of the state, the power of making peers, the 
power of appointing ministers, a veto on bills passed by the two Plouses. 
Such a prince, reigning by their choice, would have been under the necessity 
of acting in conformity with their wishes. But the public mind was not ripe 
for such a measure. There was no Duke of Lancaster, — no Prince of Orange, 
• — no great and eminent person, near in blood to the throne, yet attached to 
the cause of the people. Charles was then to remain king ; and it was there- 
fore necessary that he should be king only ia name. A William III,, or 
a George I., whose title to the crovm was identical with the title of the 
people to their liberty, might safely be trusted with extensive powers. But 
new freedom could not exist in safety under the old tyrant. Since he was not 
to be deprived of the name of king, the only course which was left was to 
make him a mere trustee, nominally seised of prerogatives of which others had 
the use, — a Grand Lama, — a Roi Faineant, — a phantom resembling those 
Dagoberts and Childeberts who wore the badges of royalty, while Ebroin and 
Charles Martel held the real sovereignty of the state. 

The conditions which the Parliament propounded were hard, but, we are 
sure, not harder than those which even the Tories, in the Convention of 1689, 
would have imposed on James, if it had been resolved that James should con- 
tinue to be king. The chief condition was that the command of the militia 
and the conduct of the war in Ireland should be left to the Parliament. On 
this point was that great issue joined, whereof the two parties put themselves 
on God and on the sword. 

We think, not only that the Commons were justified in demanding foi 
themselves the power to dispose^^ of the military force, but that it would have 
been absolute insanity in them to leave that force at the disposal of the king. 
From the very beginning of his reign it had evidently been his object to 
govern by an army. His third Parliament had complained, in the Petition ot 


Right, of his fondness for martial law, and of the vexatious manter in which 
he billeted his soldiers on the people. The wish nearest the heart of Strafford 
was, as his letters prove, that the revenue might be brought into such a state 
as wovdd enable the king to keep a standing military establishment. In 1640 
Charles had supported an army in the northern counties by lawless exactions. 
In 1641 he had engaged .in an intrigue the object of which was to bring that 
army to London for the purpose of overawing the Parliament. His late con- 
duct had proved that, if he were suffered to retain even a small body-guard of 
his own creatures near his person, the Commons would be in danger of out- 
rage, perhaps. of massacre. The Houses were still deliberating under the 
protection of the militia of London. Could the command of the .whole 
armed force of the realm have been, under these circumstances, safely confided 
to the king ? Would it not have been frenzy in the Parliament to raise and 
pay ah army of fifteen or twenty thousand men for the Irish war, and to give 
to Charles the absolute control of this army, and the power of selecting, pro- 
moting, and dismissing officers at his pleasure? Was it not probable that 
this army might become, what it is the nature of armies to become, what 
so many armies formed under much more favourable circumstances have 
become, what the army of the English Commonwealth became, what the 
army of the French Republic became, — an instrument of despotism? Was it 
not possible that the soldiers might forget that they were also citizens, and 
might be ready to serve their general against their country ? Was it not 
cgrtain that, on the first day on which Charles could venture to revoke his 
concessions, and to punish his opponents, he would establish an arbitrary 
government, and exact a bloody revenge? 

Our own times furnish a parallel case. Suppose that a revolution should 
take place in Spain, — that the constitution of Cadiz should be re-established, — 
that the Cortes should meet again,— that the Spanish Prynnes and Burtons, 
who are now wandering in rags round Leicester Square, should be restored 
to their country, — Ferdinand VII. would, in that case, of course repeat 
all the oaths and promises which he had made in 1820, and broke in 1823. 
But would it not be madness in the Cortes, even if they were to leave him 
the name of king, to leave him more than the name ? Would not all Europe 
scoff at them, if they were to permit him to assemble a large army for an ex- 
pedition to America, to model that army at his pleasure, to put it under the 
command of officers chosen by himself? Should we not say that every mem- 
ber of the constitutional party who might concur in such a measure would 
most richly deserve the fate which he would probably meet, — the fate of Rieeo 
and of the Empecinado ? We are not disposed to pay compliments to P'erdi* 
nand ; nor do we perceive that we pay him any compliment when we say 
that of all sovereigns in history, he seems to us most to resemble, in some very 
important points, King Charles I. Like Charles, he is pious after a certain 
fashion ; like Charles, he has made large concessions to his people, after a cer- 
tain fashion. It is well for him that he. has had to deal with men who bore 
very little resemblance to the English Puritans. 

The Commons would have the power of the sword ; the king would not 
part with it ; and nothing remained but to try the chances of war. Charles 
still had a strong party in the country. His august office,— his dignified man- 
ners, — his solemn protestations that he would for the time to come respect the 
liberties of his subjects, — pity for fallen greatness, — fear of violent innovation, 
secured for him many adherents. He had with him the Chuich, the Univer- 
sities, a majority of the nobles and of the old landed gentry. The austerity of 
the Puritan manners drove most of the gay and dissolute youth of that age to 
the tctyal stacn'dar'd. Many gttod, b'rave, and mX)d\2!ratfe mon, who dislik^ lus 


former conduct, and who entertained doubts touching his present sincerity, 
espoused his cause unwillingly, and with many painful misgivings because, 
though they dreaded his tyranny much, they dreaded democratic violence 

On the other side was the great body of the middle orders of England, — the 
merchants, the shopkeepers, the yeomanry, headed by a very large and formid- 
able minority of the peerage and of the landed gentry. The Earl of Essex, a 
man of respectable abilities and of some military experience, was appointed to 
the command of the Parliamentary army. 

Hampden spared neither his fortune nor his person in the cause. He sub* 
scribed two thousand pounds to the public service. He took a colonel's com- 
mission in the army, and went into Buckinghamshire to raise a regiment of 
.infantry. His neighbours eagerly enlisted under his command. His men were 
known by their green uhiform and by their standard, which bore on one side 
the watchword of the Parliament, *' God with us," and on the other the device 
of Hampden, ** Vestigia nulla retrorsum." This motto well described the line 
of conduct which he pursued. No member of his party had been so tempe- 
rate, while there remained a hope that legal and peaceable measures might save 
the country. No member of his party showed so much energy and vigour 
when it became necessary to appeal to arms. He made himself thoroughly 
master of his military duty, and " performed it," to use the words of Claren- 
don, "upon all occasions most punctually." The regiment which he had 
raised and trained was considered as one of the best in the service of the Par- 
liament. He exposed his person in every action with an intrepidity which 
made him conspicuous even amongst thousands of brave men. ** He was," 
says Clarendon, " of a personal courage equal to his best parts ; so that he was 
an enemy not to be wished wherever he might have been made a friend, and as 
much to be apprehended where he was so as any man could deserve to be." 
Though his military career was short, and his military situation subordinate, 
he fully proved that he possessed the talents of a great general, as well as 
those of a great statesman. 

We shall not attempt to give a history of the war. Lord Nugent's account 
of the military operations is very animated and striking. Our abstract would 
be dull, and probably unintelligible. There was, in fact, for some time no 
great and connected system of operations on either side. The war of the two 
parties was like the war of the Arimanes and Oromasdes, neither of whom, 
according to the Eastern theologians, has any exclusive domain, — who are 
equally omnipresent, — who, equally pervade all space, — who carry on their 
eternal strife within every particle of matter. There was a petty war in 
almost every county. A toviTi furnished troops to the Parliament while the 
manor-house of the neighbouring peer was garrisoned for the king. The 
combatants were rarely disposed to march far from their own homes. It was 
reserved for Fairfax and Cromwell to terminate this desultory warfare, by 
moring one overwhelming force successively against all the scattered fragments 
of {he royal party. 

It is a remarkable circumstance that the officers who had studied tactics in 
what were considered as the best schools, — under Vere in the Netherlands, — 
and under Gustavus Adolphus in Germany, — displayed far less skill than 
those commanders who had been hred to peaceful employments, and who 
never saw even a skirmish till the civil war broke out. An unlearned person 
might hence be inclined to suspect that the military art is no very profound 
mystery, that its principles are the principles of plain good sense, and 
that a quick eye, a cool head, and a stout heart will do more to make a 
general than all the diagrams of Jomini. This, however, is c«rtain, that 


Hampden showed himself a far better officer than Essex, and Cromwell than 

The military errors of Essex were probably in some degree produced by 
political timidity. He was honestly, but not warmly, attached to the cause 
of the Parliament ; and next to a great defeat he dreaded a great victory. 
Hampden, on the other hand, was for vigorous and decisive measures. When 
he drew the sword, as Clarendon has well said, he threw away the scabbard. 
He had shown that he knew better than any public man of his time how to 
value and how to practise moderation. But he knew that the essence of war 
is violence, and that moderation in war is imbecility. On several occasions, 
particularly during the operations in the neighbourhood of Brentford, he 
remonstrated earnestly with Essex. Wherever he commanded separately, the 
boldness and rapidity of his movements presented a striking contrast to the 
sluggishness of his superior. 

In the Parliament he possessed boundless influence. His employments 
towards the close of 1642 have been described by Denham in some lines 
which, though intended to be sarcastic, convey in truth the highest eulogy. 
Hampden is described in this satire as perpetually passing and repassing 
between the military station at Windsor and the House of Commons at West- 
minster, — as overawing the general, and as giving law to that Parliament 
which knew no other law. It was at this time that he organised that cele- 
brated association of counties, to which his party was principally indebted for 
its victory over the king. 

In the early part of 1643, the shires lying in the neighbourhood of London, 
which were devoted to the cause of the Parliament, were incessantly annoyed 
by Rupert and his cavalry. Essex had extended his lines so far that almost 
every point was vulnerable. The young prince, though not a great general, 
was an active and enterprising partisan, frequently surprised posts, burnt 
villages, swept away cattle, and was again at Oxford before a force sufficient 
to encounter him could be assembled. 

The languid proceedings of Essex were loudly condemned by the troops. 
All the ardent and daring spirits in the parliamentary party were eager to 
have Hampden at their head. Had his life been prolonged, there is every 
reason to believe that the supreme command would have been intrusted to 
him. But it was decreed that, at this conjuncture, England should lose the 
only man who united perfect disinterestedness to eminent talents, — the only 
man who, being capable of gaining the victory for her, was incapable of 
abusing that victory when gained. 

In the evening of the seventeenth of June, Rupert darted out of Oxford 
v/ith his cavalry on a predatory expedition. At three in the morning of the 
following day, he attacked and dispersed a few parliamentary soldiers who lay 
at Postcombe. He then flew to Chinnor, burned the village, killed or took all 
the troops who were posted there, and prepared to hurry back with his booty 
and his prisoners to Oxford. 

Hampden had, on the preceding day, strongly represented to Essex the 
danger to which this part of the line was exposed. As soon as he received 
intelligence of Rupert's incursion, he sent off a horseman with a message to 
the general. The cavaliers, he said, could only return by Chiselhamptou 
Bridge. A force ought to be instantly despatched in that direction for the 
purpose of intercepting them. In the meantime, he resolved to set out with 
all the cavalry that he could muster, for the purpose of impeding the march 
of the enemy till Essex could take measures for cutting off their retreat. A 
considerable body of horse and dragoons volunteered to follow him. lie wa^ 
not their commander. He did not even belong to their branch of the service, 


But "he was," says Clarendon, "second to none but the general himself in 
the observance and application of all men." On the field of Chalgrove he 
came up with Rupert. A fierce skirmish ensued. In the first charge, 
Hampden was struck in the shoulder by two bullets, which broke the bone, 
and lodged in the body. The troops of the Parliament lost heart and gave 
way. Rupert, after pursuing them for a short time, hastened to cross the 
bridge, and made his retreat unmolested to Oxford. 

Hampden, with his head drooping, and his hands leaning on his horse's 
neck, moved feebly out of the battle. The mansion which had been inhabited 
\)y his father-in-law, and from which in his youth he had carried home his 
bride Elizabeth, was in sight. There still remains an affecting tradition that 
he looked for a moment towards that beloved house, and made an effort tc 
go thither to die. But the enemy lay in that direction. He turned his horse 
towards Thame, where he arrived almost fainting with agony. The surgeons 
dressed his wounds. ' But there was no hope. The pain which he suffered 
was most excruciating. But he endured it with admirable firmness and 
resignation. His first care was for his country. He wrote from his bed several 
letters to London concerning public affairs, aud sent a last pressing message 
to the head-quarters, recommending that the dispersed forces should be con- 
centrated. When his public duties were performed, he calmly prepared 
himself to die. He was attended by a clergyman of the Church of England, 
with whom he had lived in habits of intimacy, and by the chaplain of the 
Buckinghamshire Green-coats, Dr. Spurton, whom Baxter describes as a 
famous and excellent divine. 

A short time before his death the sacrament was administered to him. He 
declared that, though he disliked the government of the Church of England, 
he yet agreed with that Church in all essential matters of doctrine. His intel- 
lect remained unclouded. When all was nearly over, he lay murmuring faint 
prayers for himself and for the cause for which he died. " Lord Jesus," he 
exclaimed, in the moment of his last agony, "receive my soul — O Lord, save 

my country. — O Lord, be merciful to " In that broken ejaculation 

passed away his noble and fearless spirit. ' 

He was buried in the parish church of Hampden. His soldiers, bare- 
headed, with reversed arms and muffled diiims and colours, escorted his body 
to the grave, singing, as they marched, that lofty and melancholy psalm in 
which the fragility of human life is contrasted with the immutability of Him 
in whose sight a thousand years are but as yesterday when it is passed, and as 
a watch in the night. 

The news of Hampden's death produced as great a consternation in his 
party, according to Clarendon, as ii their whole army had been cut off. The 
journals of the time amply prove that the Parliament and all its friends were 
filled with grief and dismay, Lord Nugent has quoted a remarkable passage 
from the next Weekly Intelligencer. " The loss of Colonel Hampden goeth 
near the heart of every man that loves the good of the king and country, and 
makes some conceive little content to be at the army now that he is gone. 
The memory of this deceased colonel is such, that in no age to come but it 
will more and more be had in honour and esteem ; — a man so religious, and 
of that prudence, judgment, temper, valour, and integrity, that he hath left 
few his like Behind." 

He had indeed left none his like behind him. There still remained, indeed, 
in his party many acute intellects, many eloquent tongues, many brave and 
honest hearts. There still remained a rugged and clownish soldier, — half 
fanatic, half buffoon, — whose talents, discerned as yet only by one penetrating 
eye, were equal to ail the highest duties of the soldier and the prince. But 


in Hampden, and in Hampden alone, were united all the qualities which, a 
such a crisis, were necessary to save the State, — the valour and energy of Crom- 
well, the discernment and eloquence of Vane, the humanity and moderation 
of Manchester, the stem integrity of Hale, the ardent public spirit of Sydney. 
Others might possess the qualities which were necessary to save the popular 
party in the crisis of danger ; he alone had both the power and the inclina- 
tion to restrain its excesses in the hour of triumph. Others could conquer ; 
he alone could reconcile. A heart as bold as his brought up the cuirassiers 
who turned the tide of battle on Marston Moor. As skilful an eye as his 
watched the Scotch army descending from the heights over Dunbar. But it 
was when to the sullen tyranny of Laud and Charles had succeeded the fierce ■ 
conflict of sects and factions, ambitious of ascendency and burning for revenge, 
— it was when the vices and ignorance which the old tyranny had generated 
threatened the r^ew freedom with destruction, that England missed the sobriety, 
the self command the perfect soundness of judgment, the perfect rectitude of 
intention, to which the history of revolutions furnishes no parallel, or furnishes 
a parallel in Washington alone. 


Memoirs of the Life and Administration of the Right Honourable William Cecil Lord 
Burghley, Secretary of State in th6 Reign of King Edward VI., and Lord High Trea- 
surer of England in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. Containing an Historical View 
of the Times in which he lived, and of the many eminent and illustrious Persons with 
whom he was connected ; with Extracts from his Private and Official Correspondence 
and other Papers, now first published from the Originals. By the Reverend Edwaru 
Naees, D.D., Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford. 3 vols. 
4to. London: 1828, 1832. 

The work of Dr. Nares has filled us with astonishment similar to that which 
Captain Lemuel Gulliver felt when first he landed in Brobdingnag, and saw 
corn as high as the oaks in the New Forest, thimbles as large as buckets, and 
wrens of the bulk of turkeys. The whole book, and every component part of 
it, is on a gigantic scale. The title is as long as an ordinary preface. The 
prefatory matter would furnish out an ordinary book ; and the book contains 
as much reading as an ordinary library. We cannot sum up the merits of the 
stupendous mass of paper w^hich lies before us better than by saying that it 
consists of about two thousand closely printed pages, that it occupies fifteen 
hundred inches cubic measure, and that it weighs sixty pounds avoirdupois. 
Such a book might, before the deluge, have been considered as light reading* 
by Hilpa and Shalum. But unhappily the life of man is now threescore years 
and ten ; and we cannot but think it somewhat unfair in Doctor Nares to 
demand from us so large a portion of so short an existence. 

Compared with the labour of reading through these volumes, all other 
labours — the labour of thieves on the treadmill, of children in factories, of 
negroes in sugar plantations — are an agreeable recreation. There was, it is 
said, a criminal in Italy, who was suffered to make his choice between Guic- 
ciardini and the galleys. He chose the history. But the war of Pisa was too 
much for him. He changed his mind, and went to the oar. Guicciardini, 
though certainly n<">t the most amusing of writers, is a Herodotus or a Frois- 
sart, when compared with Doctor Nares. It is not merely in bulk, but in 
specific gravity also, that these memoirs exceed all other human compositions. 
On every subject which the Professor discusses, he produces three times aa 
many pages as another man ; and one of his pages is as tedious as another 


■jail's three. His book is swelled to its vast dimensions by endless repetitionSj 
by episodes which have nothing to do with the main action, by quotations from 
books which are in every circulating library, and by reflections which, when 
they happen to be just, are so obvious that they must necessarily occur to the 
mind of every reader. He employs more words in expounding and defending 
a truism than any other writer would employ in supporting a paradox. Of th e 
rules of historical perspective, he has not the faintest notion. There is neither 
foreground nor background in his delineation. The wars of Charles V. in 
Germany are detailed at almost as much length as in Robertson's life of that 
prince. The troubles of Scotland are related as fully as in M'Crie's Life of 
John Knox. It would be most unjust to deny that Doctor Nares is a man of 
great industry and research ; but he is so utterly incompetent to arrange the 
materials which he has collected that he might as well have left them in their 
original repositories. 

Neither the facts which Doctor Nares has discovered, nor the argume-nts 
which he urges, will, we apprehend, materially alter the opinion generally 
entertained by judicious readers of history concerning his hero. Lord Burghley 
can hardly be called a great man. He was not one of those whose genius and 
energy change the fate of empires. He was by nature and habit one of those 
Avho follow— not one of those who lead. Nothing that is recorded, either of 
his words or of his actions, indicates intellectual or moral elevation. But hii> 
talents, though not brilliant, were of an eminently useful kind ; and his prin- 
ciples, though not inflexible, were not more relaxed than those of his associates 
and competitors. He had a cool temper, a sound judgment, great powers of 
application, and a constant eye to the main chance. In his youth he was, it 
seems, fond of practical jokes. Yet even out of these he contrived to extract 
some pecuniary profit. When he was studying the law at Gray's Inn, he lost 
all his furniture and books to his companion at the gaming table. He accord- 
ingly bored a hole in the wall which separated his chambers from those of his 
associate, and at midnight bellowed through this passage threats of damnation 
and calls to repentance in the ears of the victorious gambler, who lay sweating 
with fear all night, and refunded his winnings on his knees next day. "Many 
other like merry jests," says his old biographer, **I have heard him tell, too 
long to be here noted." To the last, Burghley was somewhat jocose ; and 
some of his sportive sayings have been recorded by Bacon. They show much 
more shrewdness than generosity, and are, indeed, neatly expressed reasons 
for exacting money rigorously, and for keeping it carefully. It must, however, 
be acknowledged that he was rigorous and careful for the public advantage as 
well as for his own. To extol his moral character as Doctor Nares has ex- 
tolled it is absurd. It would be equally absurd to represent him as a corrupt, 
rapacious, and bad-hearted man. He paid great attention to the interests of 
the state, and great attention also to the interest of his own family. He never 
deserted his friends till it was very inconvenient to stand by them, was an 
excellent Protestant when it was not very advantageous <■© be a Papist — recom- 
mended a tolerant policy to his mistress as strongly as he could recommend it 
without hazarding her favour — never put to the rack any person from whom it 
did not seem probable that useful information might be derived — and was so 
moderate in his desires that he left only three hundred distinct landed estates, 
though he might, as his honest servant assures us, have left much more, "if 
he would have taken money out of the Exchequer for his own use, as many 
Treasurers have done." 

Burghley, like the old Marquis of Winchester, who preceded him in the 
custody of the White Staff, was of the willow, and not of Jhe oak. He first 
rose into notice by d^ending the supremacy of Henry VHI, He wa? 


subsequently favoured and promoted by the Duke of Somerset. He not only 
contrived to escape unhurt when his patron fell, but became an important 
member of the administration of Northumberland. Doctor Nares assures us 
over and over again that there could have been nothing base in Cecil's conduct 
on this occasion ; for, says he, Cecil continued to stand well with Cranmer. 
This, we confess, hardly satisfies us. We are much of the mind of FalstafF's 
tailor. We must have better assurance for Sir John than Bardolph's. We 
like not the security. 

Through the whole course of that miserable intrigue which was carried on 
round the dying bed of Edward VI., Cecil so demeaned himself as to. 
avoid, first, the displeasure of Northumberland, and afterwards the displeasure 
of Mary. He was prudently unwilling to put his hand to the instrument 
which changed the course of the succession. But the furious Dudley was 
master of the palace. Cecil, therefore, according to his own account, excused 
himself from signing as a party, but consented to sign as a witness. It is not 
easy to describe his dexterous conduct at this most perplexing crisis, in lan- 
guage more appropriate than that which is employed by old Fuller: — **His 
hand wrote it as secretary of state," says that quaint writer ; *' but his heart 
consented not thereto. Yea, he openly opposed it ; though at last yielding to 
the greatness of Northumberland, in an age when it was present drowning not 
to swim with the stream. But as the philosopher tell us, that though the 
planets be whirled about daily from east to west, by the motion of the pn'mum 
mobile^ yet have they also a contrary proper motion of their own from west to 
east, which they slowly, though surely, move at their leisure ; so Cecil had 
secret counter-endeavours against the strain of the court herein, and privately 
Advanced his rightful intentions against the foresaid duke's ambition." 

This was undoubtedly the most perilous conjuncture of Cecil's life. 
Wherever there was a safe course, he was safe. But here every course was 
full of danger. His situation rendered it impossible for him to be neutral. 
If he acted on either side — if he refused to act at all— he ran a fearful risk. 
He saw all the difficulties of his position. He sent his money and plate out 
of London, made over his estates to his son, and carried arms about his 
person. His best arms, however, were his sagacity and his self-command. 
The plot in which he had been an unwilling accomplice ended, as it was 
natural that so odious and absurd a plot should end, in the ruin of its con- 
trivers. In the meantime, Cecil quietly extricated himself, and, having been 
successively patronised by Henry, by Somerset, and by Northumberland, 
continued to flourish under the protection of Mary. 

He had no aspirations after the crown of martyrdom. He confessed him- 
self, therefore, with great decorum, heard mass in Wimbledon Church at 
Easter, and, for the better ordering of his spiritual concerns, took a priest 
into his house. Doctor Nares, whose simplicity passes that of any casuist with 
whom we are acquainted, vindicates his hero by assuring us that this was not 
superstition, but pure unmixed hypocrisy. ** That he did in some manner 
conform, we shall not be able, in the face of existing documents, to deny ; 
while we feel in our own minds abundantly satisfied that, during this very 
trying reign, he never abandoned the prospect of another revolution in favour 
of Protestantism." In another place, the t)octor tells us that Cecil went to 
mass "with no idolatrous intention." Nobody, we believe, ever accused him 
of idolatrous intentions. The very ground of the charge against him is that 
lie had no idolatrous intentions. Nobody would have blamed him if he had 
really gone to Wimbledon Church, with the feelings of a good Catliolic. to 
worship the host. Doctor Nares speaks in several places with just severity of t!»c 
sophistry of the Jesuits, and with just admirution of the incomparable letters 


of Pascal. It is somewhat strange, therefore, that he should adopt, to the full 
extent, the Jesuitical doctrine of the direction of intentions. 

We do not blame Cecil for not choosing to be burnt. The deep stain upon 
his memory is that, for differences of opinion for which he would risk nothing 
himself, he, in the day of his power, took away without scruple the lives of 
others. One of the excuses suggested in these Memoirs for his conforming, dur- 
ing the reign of Mary, to the Church of Rome, is that he may have been of 
the same mind with those German Protestants who were called Adiaphorists, 
and who considered the popish rites as matters indifferent. Melancthon was 
one of those moderate persons, and " appears," says Doctor Nares, " to have 
gone greater lengths than any imputed to Lord Burghley." We should have 
thought this not only an excuse, but a complete vindication, if Burghley had been 
an Adiapliorist for the benefit of others as well as for his own. If the popish 
rites were matters of so little moment that a good Protestant might lawfull})^ 
practice them for safety, how could it be just or humane that a Papist should 
be hanged, drawn, and quartered, for practising them from a sense of duty? 
Unhappily these non-essentials soon became matters of life and death. Just 
at the very time at which Burghley attained the highest point of power and ' 
favour, an Act of Parliament was passed by which the penalties of high 
treason were denounced against persons who should do in sincerity what he 
had done from cowardice. 

Early in the reign of Mary, Cecil was employed in a mission scarcely con- 
sistent with the character of a zealous Protestant. He was sent to escort the 
Papal Legate, Cardinal Pole, from Brussels to London. The great body of 
moderate persons, who cared more for the quiet of the realm than for the con- 
troverted points which were in issue between the Churches, seem to have 
placed their chief hope in the wisdom and humanity of the gentle Cardinal. 
Cecil, it is clear, cultivated the friendship of Pole with great assiduity, and 
received great advantage from the Legate's protection. 

But the best protection of Cecil, during the gloomy and disastrous reign of 
Maiy, was that which he derived from his own prudence and from his own 
temper, — a prudence which could never be lulled into carelessness, — a temper 
which could never be irritated into rashness. The Papists could find no occa- 
sion against him. Yet he did not lose the esteem even of those sterner Pro- 
testants who had preferred exile to recantation. He attached himself to the 
persecuted heiress of the throne, and entitled himself to her gratitude and con- 
fidence. Yet he continued to receive marks of favour from the Queen. In 
the House of Commons, he put himself at the head of the party opposed to 
the Court. Yet, so guarded was his language that, even when some of those 
who acted with him were imprisoned by the Privy Council, he escaped with 

At length Mary died : Elizabeth succeeded ; and Cecil rose at once to great, 
ness. He was sworn in Privy Councillor and Secretary of State to the new 
sovereign before he left her prison of Hatfield ; and he continued to serve her 
' during forty years, without intermission, in the highest employments. His 
abihties were precisely those which keep men long in power. He belonged 
to the class of the Walpoles, the Pelhams, and the Liverpools, — not to that of 
the St. Johns, the Carterets, the Chathams, and the Cannings. If he had 
been a man of original genius and of a commanding mind, it would have beeii 
scarcely possible for him to keep his power or even his head. There was not 
room in one government for an Elizabeth and a Richelieu. What the haughty 
daughter of Henry needed, was a moderate, cautious, flexible minister, skilled 
in the details of business, — competent to advise, but not aspiring to commancL 
And such a minister she found in Burghley. No arts could shake tke confix 


dence which she reposed in her old and trusty servant. ' The courtly graces of 
Leicester, the brilliant talents and accomplishments of Essex, touched the 
fancy, perhaps the heart of the woman ; but no riVal could deprive tb" 
Treasurer of the place which he possessed in the favour of the Queen. Sh^ 
sometimes chid him sharply ; but he was the man whom she delighted to 
honour. For "Burghley, she forgot her usual parsimony both of wealth and of 
dignities. For Burghley, she relaxed that severe etiquette to which she was 
unreasonably attached. Every other person to whom she addressed her speech, 
or on whom the glance of her eagle eye fell, instantly sank on his knee. For 
Burghley alone, a chair was set in her presence ; and there the old minister, by 
birth only a plain Lincolnshire esquire, took his ease, while the haughty heirs 
of the Fitzalans and the De Veres humbled themselves to the dust around him. 
At length, having survived all his early coadjutors and rivals, he died full of 
years and honours. His royal mistress visited him on his deathbed, and 
cheered him with assurances of her affection and esteem ; and his power 
passed, with Httle diminution, to a son who inherited his abilities, and whose 
mind had been formed by his counsels. 

The life of Burghley was commensurate with one of the most important 
periods in the history of the world. It exactly measures the time during 
which the House of Austria held unrivalled superiority and aspired to uni- 
versal dominion. In the year in which Burghley was born, Charles V. ob- 
tained the imperial crown. In the year in which Burghley died, the vast 
designs which had, during near a century, kept Europe in constant agitation, 
were buried in the same grave with the proud and sullen Philip. 

The life of Burghley was commensurate also with the period during which 
a great moral revolution was effected, — a revolution the consequences of which 
were felt, not only in the cabinets of princes, but at half the firesides in 
Christendom. He was born when the great religious schism was just com- 
mencing. He lived to see that schism complete, — and to see a line of demar- 
cation, which, since his death, has been very little altered, strongly drawn 
between Protestant and Catholic Europe. 

The only event of modern times which can be properly compared with the 
Reformation is the French Revolution, or, to speak more accurately, that 
great revolution of palilical feeling which took place in almost every part of 
the civilised world during the eighteenth century, and which obtained in 
France its most terrible and signal triumph. Each of these memorable events 
may be described as a rising up of the human reason against a Caste. The 
one was a struggle of the laity against the clergy for iniellectual liberty; the 
other was a struggle of the people against the privileged orders for political 
liberty. In both cases the spirit of innovation was at first encouraged by the 
class to which it was likely to be most prejudicial. It was under the patron- 
age of Frederic, of Catherine, of Joseph, and of the French nobles, that this 
philosophy which afterwards threatened all the thrones and aristocracies of 
Europe with destruction first became formidable. The ardour with which 
mer' betook themselves to liberal studies, at the close of the fifteenth and 
the beginning of the sixteenth century, was zealously encouraged by the heads 
of that very Church to which liberal studies were destined to be fatal. In 
both cases, when the explosion came, it came with a violence which appalled 
and disgusted many of those who had previously been distinguished by the 
freed'. m of their opinions. The violence of the democratic party in France 
made Burke a Tory and Alfieri a courtier. The violence of the chiefs of the 
German schism made Erasmus a defender of abuses, and turned the author q( 
Utopia into a persecutor. In both cases, the convulsion which had over- 
tnrown deeply -seated errors, shook all the principles on* which society rests 


to their very foundations. The minds of men were unsettled. It seemed for 
a time that all order and morality were about to perish with the prejudices 
with which they had been long and intimately associated. Frightful cruelties 
were committed. Immense masses of property were confiscated. Every part 
of Europe swarmed with exiles. In moody and turbulent spirits zeal soured 
into malignity, or foamed into madness. From the political a^Titation of the 
eighteenth century sprang the Jacobins, From the religious agitation of the 
sixteenth century sprang the Anabaptists. The partisans of Robespierre 
robbed and murdered in the name of fraternity and equality. The followers 
of Kniperdoling robbed and murdered in the name of Christian liberty. The 
feeling of patriotism was, in many parts of Europe, almost wholly extin- 
guished. All the old* ^axims of foreign policy were changed. Physical 
boundaries were superseded by moral boundaries. Nations made war on each 
other with new arms, — with arms which no fortifications, however strong by 
nature or by art, could resist, — with arms before which rivers parted like the 
Jordan, and ramparts fell down like the walls of Jericho. Those arms were 
opinions, reasons, prejudices. The great masters of fleets and armies were 
often reduced to confess, like Milton's warlike angel, how hard they found it 

** To exclude 
Spiritual substance with corporeal bar." 

Europe was divided, as Greece had been divided during the period concerning 
which Thucydides wrote. The conflict was not, as it is in ordinary times, 
between state and state, but between two omnipresent factions, each of which 
was in some places dominant and in other places oppressed, but which, openly 
or covertly, carried on their strife in the bosom of every society. No man 
asked whether another belonged to the same country with himself, but whether 
he belonged to the same sect. Party spirit seemed to justify and consecrate 
acts which, in any other times, would have been considered as the foulest 
of treasons. The French emigrant saw nothing disgraceful in bringing Aus- 
trian and Prussian hussars to Paris. The Irish or Italian democrat saw no 
impropriety in serving the French Directory against his own native govern- 
ment. So, in the sixteenth century, the fury of theological factions often 
suspended all national animosities and jealousies. The Spaniards were invited 
into France by the League ; the English were invited into France by the 

We by no means intend to underrate or to palliate the crimes and excesses 
which, during the last generation, were produced by the spirit of democracy. 
But, when we hear men zealous for the Protestant religion constantly repre- 
sent the French Revolution as radically and essentially evil on account of 
those crimes and excesses, we cannot but remember that the deliverance of 
our ancestors from the house of their spiritual bondage was effected "by 
plagues and by signs, by wonders and by war." We cannot but remember 
that, as in the case of the French Revolution, so also in the case of the 
Reformation, those who rose up against tyranny were themselves deeply 
tainted with the vices which tyranny engenders. We cannot but remember 
that libels scarcely less scandalous than those of Hebert, mummeries scarcely 
less absurd than those of Clootz, and crimes scarcely less atrocious than those 
of Marat, disgrace the early h^tory of Protestantism. The Reformation is 
an event long past. That volcano has spent its rage. The wide waste pro- 
duced by its outbreak is forgotten. The landmarks which were swept away 
have been replaced. The ruined edifices have been repaired. The lava has 
covered with a rich incrustation the fields which it onc« devastated, and, after 
having turned a garden into a desert, has again turned the desert into a still 
more beautiful and fruitful garden. The second great eruptio» is not yet 


over. The marks of its ravages are still all around us. The ashes are still 
hot beneath our feet. In some directions, the deluge of ftre continues to 
spread. Yet experience surely entitles us to believe that this explosion, like 
that which preceded it, will fertilise the soil which it has devastated. Already. 
in those parts which have suffered most severely, rich cultivation and secure 
dwellings Have begun to appear amidst the waste. The more we reid of 
the history of past ages, — the more we observe the signs of our own times, — 
the more do tve feel our hearts filled and swelled up by a good hope for the 
future destinies of the human race. 

The history of the Reformation in England is full of strange problems. 
The most prominent and extraordinary phenomenon which it presents to us is 
the gigantic strength of the government contrasted with the feebleness of the 
religious parties. During the twelve or thirteen years which followed the 
death of Henry VIII., the religion of the state was thrice changed. Pro- 
testantism was established by Edward ; the Catholic Church was restored by 
Mary ; Protestantism was again established by Elizabeth. The faith of the 
nation seemed to depend on the personal! inclinations of the sovereign. Nor 
was this all. An established church was then, as a matter of course, a perse- 
cuting church. Edward persecuted Catholics. Mary persecuted Protestants, 
Elizabeth persecuted Catholics again. The father of those three sovereigns 
had enjoyed the pleasure of persecuting both sects at once, and had sent to 
death, on the same hurdle, the heretic who denied the real presence, and the 
traitor who denied the royal supremacy. There was nothing in England like 
that fierce and bloody opposition which, in France, each of the religious fac- 
tions in its turn offered to the government. We Jiad neither a Coligny nor a 
Mayenne, — neither a Moncontoor nor an Ivry. No English city braved 
sword and famine for the reformed doctrines with the spirit of Rochelle, or 
for the Catholic doctrines with the spirit of Paris. Neither sect in England 
formed a League. Neither sect extorted a recantation from the sovereign. 
Neither sect could obtain from an adverse sovereign even a toleration. The 
Englisii Protestants, after several years of domination, sank down with scarcely 
a struggle under the tyranny of Mary. The Catholics, after having regained 
and abused their old ascendancy, submitted patiently to the severe rule of 
Elizabeth Neither Protestants nor Catholics engaged in any great and well- 
organized scheme of resistance. A few wild and tumultuous risings, — sup- 
pressed as soon as they appeared, — a few dark conspii-acies, in which only a 
small number of desperate men engaged, — such were the utmost efforts made 
by these two parties to assert the most sacred of human rights, attacked by 
the most odious tyranny. 

The explanation of these circumstances which has generally been given is 
▼ery simple, but by no means satisfactory. The power of the crown, it is 
said, was then at its height, and was, ill fact, despotic, This solution, we 
own, seems to us to be no solution at all. 

It has long been the fashion, — a fashion introduced by Mr. Hume, — to 
describe the English monarchy in the sixteenth century as an absolute mon- 
archy. And such undoubtedly it appears to a superficial ol^server. Elizabeth, 
it is true, often spoke to her parliaments in language as haughty and impe- 
rious as that which the Great Turk would use to his divan. She punished 
with great severity members of the Mouse of Commons who, in her opinion, 
carried the freedom of debate too far. She assumed the power of legislating 
by means of proclamations. She imprisoned her subjects without bringing 
them to a legal trial Torture was often employed, in defiance of the laws of 
England, for the purpose of extorting confessions from those who were shut 
up in her dungeons. The authority of the Star Chamber and of the Ecclesi- 


astlcal Commission was at its highest point. Severe restraints were imposed 
on political and religious discussion. The number of presses tvere at one 
time limited. No man could print without a license ; and every work had to 
undergo the scrutiny of the Primate, or the Bishop of London. Pers'^-vis 
whose writings were displeasing to the Court were cruelly mutilated, liKe 
Stubbs, or put to death, like Penry. Nonconformity was severely punished. 
The Queen prescribed the exact rule of religious faith and discipline ; and 
whoever departed from that rule, either to the right or to the left, was in 
danger of severe penalties. 

Such was this government. Yet we know that it was loved by the great 
body of those who lived under it. We know that, during the fierce contests 
of the sixteenth century, both the hostile parties spoke of the time of Eliza- 
beth as of a golden age. That great queen has now been lying two hundred 
and thirty years in Henry VII. 's chapel. Yet her memory is still dear to the 
hearts of a free people. 

The truth seems to be that the government of the Tudors was, with a few 
occasional deviations, a popular government, under the forms of despotism. 
At first sight, it may seem that the prerogatives of Elizabeth were not less 
ample than those of Louis XIV., — and her parliaments were as obsequious as 
his parliaments, — that her warrant had as much authority as his lettre-de- 
cachet. The extravagance with which her courtiers eulogized her personal 
and mental charms went beyond the adulation of Boileau and Moliere. Louis 
would have blushed to receive from those who composed the gorgeous circles 
of Marli and Versailles such outward marks of servitude as the haughty 
Britoness exacted of all who approached her. But the power of Louis rested 
on the support of his army. The power of Elizabeth rested solely on the 
support of her people. Those who say that her power was absolute do not 
sufficiently consider in what her power consisted. Her power consisted in 
the willing obedience of her subjects, in their attachment to her person and to 
her office, in their respect for the old line from which she sprang, in their 
sense of the general security which they enjoyed under her government. 
These were the means, and the only means, which she had at her command 
for carrying her decrees into execution, for resisting foreign enemies, and for 
crushing domestic treason. There was not a ward in the city, — there was not 
a hundred in any shire in England, which could not have overpowered the 
handful of armed men who composed her household. If a hostile sovereign 
threatened invasion, — if an ambitious noble raised the standard of revolt, — 
she could have recourse only to the trainbands of her capital and the array of 
her counties, — to the citizens and yeomen of England, commanded by the 
merchants and esquires of England. 

Thus, when intelligence arrived of the vast preparations which Philip was 
making for the subjugation of the realm, the first person to whom the govern- 
ment thought of applying for assistance was the Lord Mayor of London. 
They sent to ask him what force the city would engage to furnish for the 
defence of the kingdom against the Spaniards. The Mayor and Common 
Council, in return, desired to know what force the Queen's Highness wished 
them to furnish. The answer was, — fifteen ships and five thousand men. The 
Londoners deliberated on the matter, and, two days after, *' humbly intreated 
the council, in sign of their perfect love and loyalty to prince and country, to 
accept ten thousand men, and thirty ships amply furnished." 

People who could give such signs as these of their loyalty were by no means 
to be misgoverned with impunity. The English in the sixteenth century were, 
beyond all doubt, a free people. They had not, indeed, the outward show 
of freedom ; but they had the reality. They had not as good a constitution 


as we have ; but they had that without which the best constitution is as use- 
less as the king's proclamation against vice and immorality, — that which, 
without any constitution, keeps rulers in awe, — force, and the spirit to use it. 
Parliaments, it is true, were rarely held, and were not very respectfully treated. 
The great charter was often violated. But the people had a security against 
gross and systematic misgovernment, far stronger than all the parchment that 
was ever marked with the sign manual, and than all the wax that was ever 
- < pressed by the great seal. 

It is a common error in politics to confound means with ends. Constitu- 
tions, charters, petitions of right, declarations of right, representative assem 
^ blies, electoral colleges, are not good government ; nor do they, even wh-^n 
*««Qa most elaborately constructed, necessarily produce good government. Laws 
u^ .exist in vain for those who have not the courage and the means to defeni^ 
^ them. Electors meet in vain where want makes them the slaves of the land*- 
. V' lord, or where superstition, makes them the -slaves of the priest. Represen- 
"15 tative assemblies sit in vain unless they have at their command, in the last 
/J .resort, the physical power which is necessary to make their deliberations free, 
> ! and their votes eiTectual. 

. ' The Irish are better represented in parliament than the Scotch, who indeed 
^ ,.are not represented at all. But are the Irish better governed than the Scotch? 
^ Surely not. This circumstance has of late been used as an argument against 
i-^ r eform . It proves nothing against reform. It proves only this, — that laws 
have no magical, no supernatural virtue ; that laws do not act like Aladdin's 
lamp or Prince Ahmed's apple ; that priestcraft, that ignorance, that the rage 
of contending facti^s, may make good institutions useless ; that intelligence, 
sobriety, industry, moral freedom, firm union, may supply in a great measure 
the defects of the worst representative system. A people whose education 
and habits are such, that, in every quarter of the world, they rise above the 
mass of those with whom they mix, as surely as oil rises to the top of water, 
— a people of such temper and self-government that the wildest popular 
excesses recorded in their history partake of the gravity of judicial proceed- 
ings, and of the solemnity of religious rites, — a people whose national pride 
and mutual attachment have passed into a proverb, — a people whose high 
and fierce spirit, so forcibly described in the haughty motto which encircles 
their thistle, preserved their independence, during a struggle of cemuries, 
from the encroachments of wealthier and more powerful neighbours, — such a 
people cannot be long oppressed. Any government, however constituted, 
must respect their wishes and tremble at their discontents. It is indeed most 
desirable that such a people should exercise a direct influence on the conduct 
of affairs, and should make their wishes known through constitutional organs. 
But some influence, direct or indirect, they will assuredly possess. Some 
organ, constitutional or unconstitutional, they will assuredly find. They will 
be better governed under a good constitution than under a bad constitution. 
Ijui they will be better governed under the worst constitutions than some 
other nations under the best. In any general classification of constitutions, 
the constitution ol Scotland must be reckoned as one of the worst, perhaps as 
the worst, in Christian Europe. Yet the Scotch are not ill-governed. And the 
reason is simply that they will not bear to be ill-governed. 

In some of the Oriental monarchies, in Afghanistan for example, though 
there exists nothing which a European* publicist would call a Constitution, 
the sovereign generally governs in conformity with ce.rtaln rules established 
tor the public benefit ; and the sanction of those rules is, that every Afghan 
approves them, and that eveiy Afghan is a soldier. 
The ojonarcny of England in the sixteenth century was a monarcliy of this 


kind. It is called an absolute monarchy, because little respect was paid by 
the Tudors to those institutions which we have been accustomed to consider 
as the sole checks on the power of the sovereif:;n. A modern Englishman can 
hardly understand how the people can have had any real security for good 
government under kings who levied benevolences, and chid the House of Com* 
mons as they would have chid a pack of dogs. People do not sufficiently con- 
sider that, though the legal checks were feeble, the natural checks were strong. 
There was one great and effectual limitation on the royal authority, — the 
/nowledge that, if the patience of the nation were severely tried, the nation 
Ayould put forth its strength, and that its strength would be found irresistible. 
If a large body of Englishmen became thoroughly discontented, instead of pre- 
senting requisitions, holding large meetings, passing resolutions, signing peti- 
tions, forming associations, and unions, they rose up ; they took their halberds 
and their bows; and, if the sovereign was not sufficiently popular to find 
among his subjects other halberds and other bows to oppose to the rebels, 
nothing remained for him but a repetition of the horrible scenes of Berkeley 
and Pomfret He had no regular army which could, by its superior arms and 
its superior skill, overawe or vanquish the sturdy Commons of his realm, 
abounding in the native hardihood of Englishmen, and trained in _^the simple 
discipline of the militia. 

It has been said that the Tudors were as absolute as the Coesars. Never was 
parallel so unfortunate. The government of the Tudors was the direct oppo- 
site to the government of Augustus and his successors. The Caesars ruled 
despotically, by means of a great standing army, under the decent forms of a 
republican constitution. They called themselves citizens. They mixed un- 
ceremoniously with other citizens. In theory they were only the elective 
magistrates of a free commonwealth. Instead of arrogating to themselves 
despotic power, they acknowledged allegiance to the senate. They were 
merely the lieutenants to that venerable body. They mixed in debate. They 
even appeared as advocates before the courts of law. Yet they could safely 
indulge in* the wildest freaks of cruelty and rapacity, while their legions re- 
mained faithful. Our Tudors, on the other hand, under the titles and forms 
of monarchical supremacy, were essentially popular magistrates. They had no 
means of protecting themselves against the public hatred ; and they were, 
therefore, compelled to court tlie public favour. To enjoy all the state and all 
the personal indulgences of absolute power, — to be adored with Oriental pro- 
strations, — to dispose at will of the liberty and even of the life of minister 
and courtiers, — this the nation granted to the Tudors. But the condition on 
which they were suffered to be the tyrants of Whitehall was that they should 
be the mild and paternal sovereigns of England. They were under the same 
restraints with regard to their people under which a military despot is placed 
with regard to his army. They would have found it as dangerous to grind 
their subjects with cruel taxation as Nero would have found it to leave his 
praetorians unpaid. Those who immediately surrounded the royal person, and 
engaged in the hazardous game of ambition, were exposed to the most fearful 
dangers. Buckingham, Cromwell, Surrey, Sudley, Somerset, Suffolk, Nor- 
folk, Percy, Essex, perished on the scaffold. But in general the country 
gentlemen hunted and the merchapt traded in peace. Even Henry, as cruel 
as Domitian, but far more politic, contrived, while reeking with the blood of 
the kamiae, to be a favourite with the cobblers. 

The Tudors committed very tyrannical acts. But in their ordinary dealings 
with the people they were not, and could not safely be, tyrants. Some ex- 
cesses were easily pardoned. For the nation was proud of the high and fiery 
blood of its magnificent princes, and saw, in many proceedings which a lawy^ 


would even then have condemned, the outbreak of the same noble spirit which 
go manfully hurled foul scorn at Parma and at Spain. But to this endurance 
there was a limit. If the government ventured to adopt measures which the 
people really felt to be oppressive, it was soon compelled to change its course. 
When Henry VlII. attempted to raise a forced loan of unusual amount by pro- 
ceedings of unusual rigour, the opposition which he encountered was such as 
appalled even his stubborn and imperious spirit. The people, we are told, 
said that, if they were treated thus, "then were it worse than the taxes of 
France ; and England should be bond, and not free." The county of Suffolk 
rose in arms. The king prudently yielded to an opposition which, if he had 
persisted, would, in all probability, have taken the form of a general rebellion. 
Towards the close of the reign of Elizabeth, the people felt themselves 
aggrieved by the monopolies. The queen, proud and courageous as she was, 
shrank from a contest with the nation, and, with admirable sagacity, conceded 
all that her subjects had demanded, while it was yet in her power to concede 
with dignity and grace. 

It cannot be imagined that a people who had in their o\vn hands the means 
of checking their princes would suffer any prince to impose upon them a re- 
ligion generally dttested. It is absurd to suppose that, if the nation had been 
decidedly attached to the Protestant faith, Mary could have re-established the 
Papal supremacy. It is equally absurd to suppose that, if the nation had been 
zealous for the ancient religion, Elizabeth could have restored the Protestant 
Church. The truth is, that the people were not disposed to engage in a struggle 
either for the new or for the old doctrines. Abundance of spirit was shown 
when it seemed likely that Mary would resume her father's grants of church 
property, or that she would sacrifice the interests of England to the husband 
whom she regarded with unmerited tenderness. That queen found that it 
would be madness to attempt the restoration of the abbey lands. She found 
that her subjects would never suffer her to make her hereditary kingdom a fief 
of Castile. On these points she encountered a steady resistance, and was 
compelled to give way. If she was able to establish the Catholic worship and 
to persecute those who would not conform to it, it was evidently because the 
people cared far less for the Protestant religion than for the rights of property 
and for the independence of the English crown. In plain words, they did not 
think the difference between the hostile sects worth a struggle. There was un- 
doubtedly a zealous Protestant party and a zealous Catholic party. But both 
these parties were, we believe, very small. We doubt whether both together 
made up, at the time of Mary's death, the twentieth part of the nation. The 
remaining nineteen twentieths halted between the two opinions, and were not 
disposed to risk a revolutioa in the government, for the purpose of giving to 
either of the extreme factions an advantage over the other. 

We possess no data which will enable us to compare with exactness the force 
of the two sects. Mr. Butler asserts that, even at the accession of James I., 
a majority of the population of England were Catholics. This is pure asser- 
tion ; and is not only unsupported by evidence, but, we think, completely 
disproved by the strongest evidence. Dr. I^ingard is of opinion that tho 
Catholics were one half of the nation in the middle of the reign of Elizabeth. 
Richton sajjs that, when Elizabeth came to the throne, the Catholics were two 
thirds of the nation, and the Protestants only one third. The most judicious 
and impartial of English historians, Mr. Ilallam, is, on the contrary, of opinion 
.that two thirds were Protestants, and only one third Catholics. To us, we 
must confess, it seems incredible that, if the Protestants were really two to 
one, they should have borne the government of Mary, or that, if the Catholict 
were really two to onCi they should have borue the government of ElitabetU, 


It is absolutely incredible that a sovereign who has no standing army, 
and whose power rests solely on the loyalty of his subjects, can continue 
for years to persecute a religion to which the majority of his subjects are 
sincerely attached. In fact, the Protestants did rise up against one sister, 
and the Catholics against the other. Those risings clearly showed how 
small and feeble both the parties were. Both in the one case and in the 
other the nation ranged itself on the side of the government, and the in- 
surgents were speedily put down and punished. The Kentish gentlemen who 
took up arms for the reformed doctrines against Mary, and the great Northern 
Earls who displayed the banner of the Five Wounds against Elizabeth, were 
alike considered by the great body of their countrymen as wicked disturbers 
of the public peace. 

The account which Cardinal Bentivoglio gave of the state of religion in 
England well deserves consideration. The zealous Catholics he reckoned 
at one thirtieth part of the nation. The people who would without the least 
scruple become Catholics, if the Catholic religion were established, he esti- 
mated at four fifths of the nation. We believe this account to have been 
very near the trulji. We believe that the people, whose minds were made 
up on either side, who were inclined to make any sacrifice or run any risk 
for either side, were very few. Each side had a few enterprising champions, 
and a few stout-hearted martyrs ; but the nation, undetermined in its opinions 
and feelings, resigned itself implicitly to the guidance of the government, and 
lent to the sovereign for the time being an equally ready aid against either of 
the extreme parties. 

We are very far from saying that the English of that generation were irre- 
ligious. They held firmly those doctrines which are common to the Catholic 
and to the Protestant theology. But they had no fixed opinion as to the 
matters in dispute between the churches. They were in a situation resem- 
bling that of those Borderers whom Sir Walter Scott has described with so 
much spirit, 

** Who sought the beeves that made their broth 
In England and in Scotland both." 
And who 

" Nine times outlawed had been 
By England's king and Scotland's queen." 

They were sometimes Protestants, sometimes Catholics ; sometimes half 
Protestants, half Catholics. 

The English had not, for ages, been bigoted papists. In the fourteenth 
century the first and perhaps the greatest of the reformers, John Wickliffe, 
had stirred the public mind to its inmost depths. During the same century 
a scandalous schism in the Catholic Church had diminished in many parts 
of Europe the reverence in which the Roman Pontiffs were held. It is 
clear that a hundred years before the time of Luther a great party in this 
kingdom was eager for a change at least as extensive as that which was 
subsequently effected by Henry VIII. The House of Commons, in the 
reign of Hairjr IV., proposed a confiscation of ecclesiastical property, more 
sweeping and violent even than that which took place under the adminis- 
tration of Thomas Cromwell; and though defeated in this attempt they 
succeeded in depriving the clerical order of some of its most oppressive 
i^iriyileges. The splendid conquests of Henry V, turned the attention of the 
nation from domestic reform. The Council of Constance removed some of 
the grossest of those scandals which had deprived the Church of the public 
respect. The authority of that venerable synod propped up the sinking • 
authority of the Popedom. A considerable reaction took place. It cannot, 


however, be doubted, that there was still some concealed Lollardism in Eng- 
land ; or that many who did not absolutely dissent from any doctrine held 
by the Church of Rome were jealous of the wealth and power enjoyed by 
her ministers. At the very beginning of the reign of Henry VIIL, a 
struggle took place between the clergy and the courts of law, in which the 
courts of law remained victorious. One of the bishops, on that occasion, 
declared that the common people entertained the' strongest prejudices against 
his order, and that a clergyman had no chance of fair play before a lay tri- 
liunal. The London juries, he said, entertained such a spite to the Church 
that they would find Abel guilty of the murder of Cain. This was said a 
few months before the time when Martin Luther began to preach at Witten- 
burg against indulgences. 

As the Reformation did not find the English bigoted Papists, so neither was 
it conducted in such a manner as to make them zealous Protestants. It was 
not under the direction of men like that fiery Saxon who swore that he would* 
go to Worms, though he had to face as many devils as there were tiles on the 
houses, or like that brave .Switzer who was struck down while praying in 
front of the ranks of Zurich. No preacher of religion had the same power 
here which Calvin had at Geneva and Knox in Scotland. The government 
put itself early at the head of the movement, and thus acquired power to re- 
gulate, and occasionally to arrest, the movement. 

To many persons it appears extraordinary that Henry VHI. should have 
been able to maintain himself so long in an intermediate position between 
the Catholic and Protestant parties. Most extraordinary it would indeed be, 
if we were to suppose that the nation consisted of none but decided Catholics 
and decided Protestants. The fact is that the great mass of the people was 
neither Catholic nor Protestant, but was, like its sovereign, midway between 
the two sects. Henry, in that very part of his conduct which has been repre- 
sented as most capricious and inconsistent, was probably following a policy 
far more pleasing to the majority of his subjects than a policy like that of 
Edward, or a policy like that of Mary, would have been. Down even to the 
very close of the reign of Elizabeth, the people were in a state somewhat 
resembling that in which, as Machiavelli says, the inhabitants of the Roman 
empire were, during the transition from heathenism to Christianity: "sendo 
la maggior parte di loro incerti a quale Dio dovessero ricorrere." They were 
generally, we think, favourable to the royal supremacy. They disliked the 
policy of the Court of Rome. Their spirit rose against the interference of a 
.foreign priest with their national concerns. The bull which pronounced 
sentence of deposition against Elizabeth, the plots which were formed against 
her life, the usurpation of her titles by the Queen of Scotland, the hostility 
of Philip, excited their strongest indignation. The cruelties of Bonner were 
remembered with disgust. Some parts of the new system, — the use of the 
English language, — in public worship, and the communion in both kinds, 
were undoubtedly popular. On the other hand, the early lessons of the 
nurse and the priest were not forgotten. The ancient ceremonies were long 
remembered with affectionate reverence. A large portion of the ancient 
theology lingered to the last in the minds which had been imbued with it in 

The best proof that the religion of the people was of this mixed kind is 
furnished by the Drama of that age. No mftn would bring unpopular opinions 
prominently forward in a play intended for representation. And we may 
safely conclude, that feelings and opinions which pervade the whole Dramatic 
Literature of the age, are feelings and opinions of which the men of that 
generation generally partook. 


The greatest and most popular dramatists of the Elizabethan age treat re- 
ligious subjects in a very remarkable manner. They speak respectfully of the 
fundamental doctrines of Christianity. But they speak neither like Catholics 
nor like Protestants, but like persons who are wavering between the two 
systems, or who have made a system for themselves out of parts selected 
from both. They seem to hold some of the Romish rites and doctrines in 
high respect. They treat the vow of celibacy, for example, so tempting, — ^ 
and, in later times, so common a subject for ribaldry, — with mysterious rever-' 
ence. The members of a religious order whom they introduce are holy and 
venerable men. We remember in their plays nothing resembling the coarse 
ridicule with which the Catholic religion and its ministers were assailed, two 
generations later, by dramatists who wished to please the multitude. We 
remember no Friar Dominic, — no Father Foigard, — among the characters 
drawn by those great poets. The scene at the close of the Knight of Malta 
might have been written by a fervent Catholic. Massinger shows a great 
fondness for ecclesiastics of the Romish Church, and has even gone so far as 
'to bring a virtuous and interesting Jesuit on the stage. Ford, in that fine play 
which it is painful to read and scarcely decent to name, assigns a highly credit- 
able part to the Friar. The partiality of Shakspeare for Friars is well known. 
In Hamlet, the Ghost complains that he died without extreme unction, and, 
in defiance of the article which condemns the doctrine of purgatory, declares 
that he is 

" Confined to fast in fires 
Till the foul crimes, done in his days of nature. 
Are burnt and purged away." 

These lines, we suspect, would have raised a tremendous storm in the 
theatre at any time during the reign of Charles II. They were clearly not 
written by a zealous Protestant, or for zealous Protestants. Yet the author of 
King John and Henry VIII. was surely no friend to papal supremacy. 

There is, we think, only one solution of the phenomena which we find in 
the history and in the drama of that age. The religion of the English was a 
mixed religion, like that of the Samaritan settlers, described in the second 
book of Kings, who "feared the Lord, and served their graven images;" — 
like that of the Judaizing Christians who blended the ceremonies and doctrines 
of the synagogue with those of the church ; — like that of the Mexican Indians, 
who, during many generations after the subjugation of their race, continued to 
unite with the rites learned from their conquerors the worship of the grotesque 
idols which had been adored by Montezuma and Guatemozin. 

These feelings were not confined to the populace. Elizabeth herself was 
by no means exempt from them. A crucifix, with wax lights burning round 
it, stood in her private chapel. She always spoke with disgust and anger of 
the marriage of priests. "I was in horror," says Archbishop Parker, **to 
hear such words to come from her mild nature and Christian learned con- 
science, as she spake concerning God's holy ordinance and institution of matri- 
mony." Burghley prevailed on her to connive at the marriages of churchmen. 
But she would only connive ; and the children sprung from such marriages 
were illegitimate till the accession of James I. 

That which is, as we have said, the great stain on the character of Burghley 
is also the great stain on the character of Elizabeth. Being herself an Adia« 
phorist, — having no scruple about conforming to the Romish Church when 
conformity was necessary to her own safety, — retaining to the last moment of 
her life a fondness for much of the doctrine and much of the ceremonial of 
that church, — she yet subjected that church to a persecution even more odid'* 
than the persecution with which her sister had harassed the Protestants. W 9 


say more odious. For Mary had at least the plea of fanaticism. She did 
nothing for her religion which she was not prepared to suffer for it. She had 
held it firmly under persecution. She fully believed it to be essential to sal- 
vation. If she burned the bodies of her subjects, it was in order to rescue 
their souls. Elizabeth had no such pretext. In opinion, she was little more 
than half a Protestant. She had professed, when it suited her, to be wJ^lly 
a Catholic. There is an excuse, — a wretched excuse, — for the massacres of 
Piedmont and the Atttos-da-fe of Spain. But what can be said in defence of a 
ruler who is at once indifferent and intolerant ? 

If the great Queen, whose memory is still held in just veneration by 
Englishmen, had possessed sufficient virtue and sufficient enlargement of mind 
to adopt those principles which More, wiser in speculation than in action, had 
avowed in the preceding generation, and by which the excellent L'Hospital 
regulated his conduct in her own time, how different would be the colour of 
the whole history of the last two hundred and fifty years ! She had the 
happiest opportvmity ever vouchsafed to any sovereign of establishing perfect 
freedom of conscience throughout her dominions, without danger to her 
government, without scandal to any large party among her subjects. The 
nation, as it was clearly ready to profess either religion, would, beyond all 
doubt, have been ready to tolerate both. Unhappily for her own glory and 
for the public peace, she adopted a policy from the effects of which the 
empire is still suffering. The yoke of the Established Church was pressed 
down on the people till they could bear it no longer. Then a reaction came. 
Another reaction followed. To the tyranny of the Establishment succeeded 
the tumultuous conflict of sects, infuriated by manifold wrongs, and drunk 
with unwonted freedom. To the conflict of sects succeeded again the cruel 
domination of one persecuting church. At length oppression put off its most 
horrible form, and took a milder aspect. The penal laws against dissenters 
were abolished. But exclusions and disabilities still remained. These exclu- 
sions and disabilities, after having generated the most fearful discontents, — 
after having rendered all government in one part of the kingdom impossible, — 
after having brought the state to the very brink of ruin, have, in our times, 
been removed, but, though removed, have left behind them a rankling which 
may last for many years. It is melancholy to think with what ease Elizabeth 
might have united all conflicting sects under the shelter of the same impartial 
lawa and the same paternal throne, and thus have placed the nation in the 
same situation, as far as flie rights of conscience are concerned, in which we 
at last stand, after all the heart-burnings, the persecutions, the conspiracies, 
the seditions, the revolutions, the judicial murders, the civil wars, of ten 

This is the dark side of her character. Yet she surely was a great woman. 
Of all the sovereigns who exercised a power which was seemingly absolute, 
but which in fact depended for support on the love and confidence of their 
subjects, she was by far the most illustrious. It has often been alleged as an 
excuse for the misgovernment of her successors that they only followed her 
example, — that precedents might be found in the transactions of her reign for 
persecuting the Puritans, for levying money without the sanction of the House 
of Commons, for confining men without bringing them to trial, for interfering 
with the liberty of parliamentary debate. All this may be true. But it is no 
good plea for her successors : and for this plain reason, that they were her 
successors. She governed one generation, they governed another ; and between 
the two generations there was almost as little in common as between the 
people of two different countries. It was not by looking at the particular 
intasures which Elizabeth had adopted, but by looking at the great general 


principles of her government, that those who followed her were likely to 
learn the art of managing untractabie subjects. If, instead of searching the 
records of her reign for precedents which might seem to vindicate the mu- 
tilation of Prynne and the imprisonment of Eliot, the Stuarts had « ttempted 
to discover the fundamental rules which guided her conduct in all her 
dealings with her people, they would have perceived that their policy 
was then most unlike to hers, when to a superficial observer it would 
have seemed most to resemble hers. Firm, haughty, — sometimes unjust 
and cruel, in her proceedings towards individuals or towards small parties, 
— she avoided with care, or retracted with speed, every measure which 
seemed likely to alienate the great mass of the people. She gained more 
honour and more love by the manner in which she repaired her errors than 
she would have gained by never committing errors. If such a man as 
Charles I. had been in her place when the whole nation was crying out against 
the monopolies, he would have refused all redress ; he would have dissolved 
the Parliament, and imprisoned the most popular members. He would have 
called another Parliament. He would have given some vague and delusive 
promises of relief in return for subsidies. "When entreated to fulfil his pro- 
mises, he would have again dissolved the Parliament, and again imprisoned 
his leading opponents. The countiy would have become more agitated than 
before. The next Plouse of Commons would have been more unmanageable than 
that which preceded it. The tyrant would have agreed to all that the nation 
demanded. He would have solemnly ratified an act abolishing monopolies 
for ever. He would have received a large supply in return for this concession ; 
and within half a year new patents, more oppressive than those which had 
been cancelled, would have been issued by scores. Such was the policy which 
brought the heir of a long line of kings, in early youth the darling of his 
countrjmaen, to a prison and a scaffold. 

Elizabeth, before the House of Commons could address her, took out of 
their mouths the words which they were about to utter in the name of the 
nation. Her promises went beyond their desires. Her performance followed 
close upon her promise. She did not treat the nation as an adverse party — 
as a party which had an interest opposed to hers — as a party to which she was 
to grant as few advantages as possible, and from which she was to extort as 
much money as possible. Her benefits were given, not sold ; and when once 
given, they were never withdrawn. She gave them too with a frankness, an 
effusion of heart, a princely dignity, a motherly tenderness, which enhanced 
their value. They were received by the sturdy country gentlemen who had 
come up to Westminster full of resentment, with "tears of joy, and shouts of 
"God save the Queen." Charles I. gave up half the prerogatives of 
his crown to the Commons j and the Commons sent him in return the Grand 

We had intended to say something concerning that illustrious group of 
which Elizabeth is the central figure — that group which the last of the bardj 
saw in vision from the top of Snowdon, encircling the Vii-gin Queen, 
•' Many a baron bold, 
And gorgeous dames, and statesmen old 
In bearded majesty." 

.We had intended to say something concerning the dexterous Walsingham, 
the impetuous Oxford, the graceful Sackville, the all-accomplished Sydney; — 
concerning Essex, the ornament of the court and of the camp, the model o£ 
chivalry, the munificent patron of genius, whom great virtues, great courage, 
great talents, the favour of his sovereign, the love of his countrymen — all that 
se'coLed to ensure a hap'p'y and glorious life, led to an early and an ign'ominioii^ 


wnfuiiiM ■■ ' 

death ; — concerning Raleigh, the soldier, the sailor, the scholar, the courtier, 
the orator, the poet, the historian, the philosopher — whom we picture to 
ourselves sometimes reviewing the Queen's guard, sometimes giving chase to 
a Spanish galleon — then answering the chiefs of the country party in the 
House of Commons — then again murmuring one of his sweet love-songs too 
near the ears of her Highness's maids of honour — and soon after poring over 
the Talmud, or collating Polybius with Livy. We had intended also to say 
something concerning the literature of that splendid period, and especially 
concerning those two incomparable men, the Prince of Poets, and the Prince 
of Philosophers, who have made the Elizabethan age a more glorious and 
important era in the history of the human mind than the age of Pericles, of 
Augustus, or of Leo. But subjects so vast require a space far larger than 
we can at present afford. "We therefore stop here, fearing that, if we proceed, 
our article may swell to a bulk exceeding that of all other reviews, as much as 
Doctor Nares's book exceeds the bulk of all other histories. 


History of the War of the Succession in Spain. By Lord Mahon. 8vo. 
London. 1832, 

The days when Miscellanies in Prose and Verse by a Person of Honour, and 
Romances of M. Scuderi, done into English by a Person of Quality, were 
a'ttractive to readers and profitable to booksellers, have long gone by. The 
literary privileges once enjoyed by lords are as obsolete as their right to kill 
the king's deer on their way to Parliament, or as their old remedy of scandalum 
magnattim. Yet we must acknowledge that, though our political opinions are 
by no means aristocratical, we always feel kindly disposed toward noble authors. 
Industry and a taste for intellectual pleasures are peculiarly respectable in 
those who can afford to be idle, and who have every temptation to be dissi- 
pated. It is impossible not to wish success to a man who, finding himself 
placed, without any exertion or any merit on his part, above the mass of 
society, voluntarily descends from his eminence in search of distinctions which 
he may justly call his own. 

This is, we think, the second appearance of Lord Mahon in the character 
of an author. His first book was creditable to him, but was in every respect 
inferior to the work which now lies before us. He has undoubtedly some 
of the most valuable qualities of an historian — great diligence in examining 
authorities — great judgment in weighing testimony — and great impartiality in 
estimating characters. We are not aware that he has in any itistance for- . 
gotten the duties belonging to his literary functions in the feelings of a kins- 
man. He does no more than justice to his ancestor Stanhope; he does full 
justice to Stanhope's enemies and rivals. His narrative is very perspicuous, 
and is also entitled to the praise, seldom, we grieve to say, deserved by 
modern writers, of being very concise. It must be admitted, however, that, 
with many of the best qualities of a literary veteran, he has some of the faults 
of a literary novice. He has not yet acquired a great command of words. 
His style is seldom easy, and is sometimes unpleasantly stiff. He is so bigoted 
a purist that he transforms the Abbe d'Estrc'es into an Abbot. We do not 
like to see French words introduced into English composition ; but, after all, 
the first law of writing, that law to which all other laws are subordinate, is 
this — that the words employed shall be such as convey to the reader tjie 
weaning of the writer. Now an Abbot is the head of a religious house; aa 


Abbe is quite a different sort of person. It is better undoubtedly to use an 
English word than a French word ; but it is better to use a French word than 
to misuse an English word. 

Lord Mahon is also a little too fond of uttering moral reflections in a style 
too sententious and oracular. We will give one instance: "Strange as it 
seems, experience shows that we usually feel far more animosity against those 
whom we have injured than against those who injure us : and this remark 
holds good with every degree of intellect, with every class of fortune, with a 
prince or a peasant, a stripling or an elder, a hero or a prince." This remark 
might have seemed strange at the court of Nimrod or Chedorlaomer ; but it 
has now been for many generations considered as a truism rather than a para- 
dox. Every boy has written on the thesis ^' Odisse quern Iczseris." Scarcely 
any lines in English Poetry are better known than that vigorous couplet : — 

" Forgiveness to the injured does belong ; — 
But they ne'er pardon who have done the wrong." 

The historians and philosophers have quite done with this maxim, and have 
abandoned it, like other maxims which have lost their gloss, to bad novelists, 
by whom it will very soon be worn to rags. 

It is no more than justice to say that the faults of Lord Mahon's book are 
precisely the faults which time seldom fails to cure, and that the book, in 
spite of faults, is a valuable addition to our historical literature. 

Whoever wishes to be well acquainted with the morbid anatomy of govern- 
ments, whoever wishes to know how great states may be made feeble and 
wretched, should study the history of Spain. The empire of Philip II. 
was undoubtedly one of the mos